Killer in 1994 driveby shooting on Elgin Street granted day parole

Reubens Henderson was 16 years old when he shot a random stranger in the back on Elgin Street in March 1994, striking his heart and killing him. Now 38, the convicted murderer has been granted day parole.

Reubens Henderson was 16 when he shot and killed a stranger during crime spree

Reubens Henderson was 16 years old when he went on a drug and alcohol-fueled crime spree with two other teens in March 1994 — stealing two rifles and a Jeep, then shooting at restaurants and shops until a random stranger caught his eye on Elgin Street in downtown Ottawa.

"I am going to shoot that guy," he said.

"That guy" was Nicholas Battersby, who came to Ottawa from England to work at Nortel. Henderson shot him in the back, piercing his heart and killing him.

The "thoughtless violence to the most extreme degree" is detailed in a Parole Board of Canada review, dated Oct. 18, 2016.

Now 38, Henderson has been granted day parole after spending more than half of his life in prison. 

The board decided Henderson "will not present an undue risk to society if released" and it will help his "reintegration to society as a law-abiding citizen."

The location of his day parole has been redacted from the decision. Offenders on day parole are required to return nightly to a halfway house or community-based residential facility.

Sentenced as adult

Henderson was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced as an adult — though ordered to spend the two initial years of his life sentence in a youth facility. He was given no chance of parole for seven years.

Parole records detail he had an unstable home life prior to prison. Henderson was adopted from an orphanage, but his adoptive mother found him "difficult to handle." 

Despite "interventions" by the Children's Aid Society, he remained "aggressive and displayed defiant behaviour," eventually being diagnosed with an extreme conduct disorder, documents detail. 

He was placed in several group homes before ending up at the Salvation Army, where he was staying when he "absconded" with two other youth and went on a crime spree that would end in murder.

In December 2001, the Supreme Court refused to hear Henderson's appeal on the conviction, which claimed that intense media interest in the case resulted in a biased trial and an unfair jury.

Prison history

Henderson was disciplined several times in prison — and was put in solitary confinement twice, in 1999 and 2002. He was disciplined for refusing to be locked up, possessing unauthorized items, consuming an unspecified intoxicant, refusing urinalysis and pushing a cart down a hall into a staff member. He was also disciplined for "the stabbing of an offender", but it was noted that he was not the aggressor.

Henderson was approved for escorted temporary absences in May 2011 for personal development — specifically to attend the mosque and Narcotics Anonymous — but the privilege was revoked after he self reported he was "using THC" in July 2011.

He was again granted escorted temporary absences to visit the mosque in July 2012 but his visits were revoked in January 2013 after he was reported for "drug involvement." Nearly a year later, in December 2013, his application to attend the mosque was once again granted and there has been "no issue" since.

In November 2015, Henderson was granted two unescorted 72-hour absences, plus travel time, to a community-based residential facility.

In the two years leading up to his day parole, the board noted Henderson "had positive institutional behaviour." He has had six clean urinalysis tests since April 2013.

Conditions of day parole

The board imposed several conditions for Henderson's day parole, considered "reasonable and necessary" to protect the public and help with his reintegration into society, including:

  • Abstaining from both alcohol and drugs.
  • No direct or indirect contact with the family of Nicholas Battersby.
  • Follow psychological counselling.

The board noted Henderson was "insightful" in recognizing his history, including his crime and poor conduct in prison. It also highlighted that Henderson now works with inmates who need psychological assistance.

"You spoke credibly of the personal growth that you have experienced through helping others," the board wrote in its decision.

with files from CBC News, The Canadian Press