Nova Scotia

After 18 years in prison, Hells Angels hitman can now apply for parole

A long legal battle involving a hitman for the Hells Angels came to a close Friday in Nova Scotia Supreme Court when lawyers agreed that Dean Daniel Kelsie can now begin applying for parole.

Dean Daniel Kelsie has been jailed since 2001 for a murder in north-end Dartmouth

Dean Daniel Kelsie has been in prison since his arrest in 2001. (CBC)

A long legal battle involving a hitman for the Hells Angels came to a close Friday in Nova Scotia Supreme Court when lawyers agreed that Dean Daniel Kelsie can now begin applying for parole.

Kelsie shot and killed Sean Simmons in the lobby of an apartment building in north-end Dartmouth, N.S., on Oct. 3, 2000. Kelsie was one of four men who took part in the killing.

Two other men, Neil William Smith and Wayne Alexander James, are serving life sentences for their roles in Simmons's killing. A fourth man, Steven Gareau, was set free last year after a judge ended the prosecution against him.

Simmons was gunned down on orders from a Hells Angel because Simmons allegedly had an affair with a gang member's wife.

Kelsie was initially convicted of first-degree murder, but that conviction was overturned on appeal.

Crown prosecutors took the case to the Supreme Court of Canada to try to get that conviction restored. The Supreme Court refused to do that and instead — with the consent of the lawyers — substituted a conviction for second-degree murder.

Kelsie has been in prison since his arrest in 2001.

Lawyers for the Crown and defence made a joint recommendation that Kelsie served enough time and can apply for parole. His fate is now in the hands of the Parole Board of Canada, which must decide when and under what conditions he can be released.

Victim-impact statements

Before he accepted the joint recommendation, Justice Jamie Campbell heard victim-impact statements from members of Simmons's family.

His widow, sister and now adult children all spoke. Crown prosecutor Peter Craig read a statement from his mother, Roberta Hallam, who died in 2012.

In her statement, Hallam talked about how her son's death left her "shattered" because she was unable to protect her son.

She said he suffered serious injuries in a "horrific" car accident in 1993, which left him with head injuries that eventually led to addictions to painkillers and other drugs. She said Simmons made repeated efforts to clean up his life and even pleaded with her the night before he was killed to get him into a rehabilitation centre.

His widow, Jylene Anne Simmons, refused to use Kelsie's name in her statement.

"The convicted did not break this family," she told the court. "I could not be more proud of my children and the adults and parents they have become."

Simmons's sister, Bobbi Simmons-Beauchamp, is a police officer, but she said her brother's murder has made it difficult in her job.

"I cannot tell victims their victim-impact statements reflect a 'more responsive criminal justice system' and 'contribute to a just sentencing process'," she said, quoting a court decision.

'There's been no healing,' says daughter

Jylene Simmons, who shares her first name with her mother, was just nine years old when her father was killed. She said at first, her family tried to shield her from news of her father's violent death. Now, she faces the same challenge with her own children.

"Time has passed but there's been no healing — a wound constantly being reopened," she told court. "These children will seek answers to their questions and when they do, they will want and deserve justice for their grandfather."

Tristan Simmons was just five when his father was killed.

"He has missed being there for weddings and graduations, birthdays, the ups and the downs; to witness the path my sister and I have chosen for ourselves."

Kelsie was given a chance to address the court. He opted instead to have his lawyer, Alison Craig, read a statement he had written.

'I take full responsibility,' says Kelsie

In it, Kelsie said he has suffered greatly. He said he was high on cocaine at the time of the murder and under pressure from his uncle, Wayne James, who told him to do the killing.

"I am deeply sorry to be involved in this situation," he wrote. Kelsie said during his time in prison, he has completed high school and all other programs available to him. He's also kicked his cocaine habit.

"I take full responsibility for my poor judgment and actions," he said through his lawyer.

Campbell said he didn't want to say much, because he wanted the words of the Simmons family to stand as the record of this case.

"I'm sorry for what happened, I'm sorry for what you're going through and I'm sorry for what you're going to go through," the judge said.

Members of the Simmons family said they will attend Kelsie's parole hearing, whenever it is held.