Partner of slain cab driver angry killer is getting passes from prison

Kelly-Anne Goode learned last week that Kenneth Purcell's killer has been granted six unescorted temporary absences from prison to be taken over the next year.

Kelly-Anne Goode says she believes the man who killed Kenneth Purcell remains a danger to the public

Kenneth Purcell had been driving cabs for Bob's and Bluebell taxis in Dartmouth for almost four decades when he was fatally stabbed on Christmas Day in 2005. (CBC)

The partner of a Nova Scotia cab driver who was stabbed to death 13 years ago on Christmas Day is angry that his killer is getting temporary passes from prison.

Garmen Davison Smith was just shy of his 18th birthday when he killed Kenneth James Purcell in the 62-year-old man's cab in Dartmouth. Smith was later sentenced as an adult to life in prison with no chance of parole for seven years.

Purcell's partner, Kelly-Anne Goode, learned last week that Smith has been granted six unescorted temporary absences from prison to be taken over the next year.

"I think he's a danger to the public and I don't feel that this is right," Goode said Thursday.

Fought to protect his name

Each pass is good for up to 72 hours and is meant to help Smith prepare for his eventual return to society. His release conditions include that he have no contact with Goode.

Even though he was a youth when he pleaded guilty to murder, Smith was sentenced as an adult in 2007 because the trial judge felt a youth sentence would not be sufficient to hold him accountable or give him the treatment he would need.

Smith fought for months to keep his name secret, but lost that battle when the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear his case.

In deciding last month to grant the unescorted temporary absences, the Parole Board of Canada noted Smith was under the influence of both drugs and alcohol when he argued with Purcell over his fare. He stabbed the man multiple times.

Second attack on a cab driver

It was not the first time he had resorted to violence against a cab driver. When he was 14, he got a youth sentence for stabbing another driver. That man survived.

Kenneth Purcell's death spurred a larger discussion about safety measures for cab drivers in the Halifax area. (CBC)

Goode said it is far too soon to let Smith out of prison considering how violently Purcell was attacked.

"In 10 years you have not dealt with that anger and hate inside of you," she said.

Goode wanted Smith to serve a minimum of 25 years in prison. That was an opinion she offered at his sentencing and a view she still holds today.

She accused Smith of dragging out the case far longer than necessary as he fought against an adult sentence and against having his name being made public.

"He used a total of two years and seven months, dragged us through court," she said.

In assessing whether he should be given more freedoms, the parole board noted Smith blamed his violent behaviour on his strict, religious upbringing, which included severe punishments.

The board found Smith started rebelling against his upbringing and began associating with criminals. He turned to drugs and alcohol to deal with his negative emotions.

Transferred to higher security prison

For the most part, the board found Smith's time in prison has been unremarkable, although last year he started showing problematic, threatening behaviour that got him transferred to a higher security prison.

The board said his behaviour improved after that and repeated drug tests have turned up no evidence of substance abuse. As is customary, the parole board does not identify the prisons where Smith has been serving.

For Goode, the passing years have done nothing to dull the pain.

"On a Sunday, Christmas Day, the holiest day of the year. A man just trying to go out and go to work," she said.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Garmen Smith had been granted six temporary passes from prison to be taken over 18 months. In fact, he has 12 months to use the passes. The original story also included a quote stating the victim was stabbed in the head. In fact, the medical examiner testified there were more than a dozen injuries on the front, right and back of the victim's body. This version has been corrected.
    Dec 03, 2018 5:05 PM AT

About the Author

Blair Rhodes

Reporter

Blair Rhodes has been a journalist for more than 35 years, the last 27 with CBC. His primary focus is on stories of crime and public safety. He can be reached at blair.rhodes@cbc.ca