A British Columbia woman who killed 14-year-old Reena Virk near a Victoria-area bridge two decades ago has been given conditional approval for day parole.
Kelly Ellard was granted day parole for six months but must first complete a residential treatment program for substance abuse.
After six months, the parole board will review the decision. Ellard will be subject to conditions including that she cannot use drugs or alcohol or be in contact with anyone involved in criminal activity, or Virk’s family.
Ellard, 35, wiped away tears Thursday as she learned the news. She was 15 when Virk was killed and is serving a life sentence for second-degree murder.
Panel member Colleen Zuk said it goes without saying that Ellard committed a “heinous” crime and that she was largely responsible for Virk’s death.
“It’s very problematic in your case that there have been years and years of deception, of lying about the facts,” Zuk said. “Today we found that you continued to somewhat minimize.”
However, she said she found Ellard to be more transparent than she’d been in the past, including that she admitted to planning to confront and harm Virk and that she wanted to “get rid of her” after the situation escalated to a swarming and a beating.
Zuk also acknowledged that Ellard had done trauma counselling and had the support of her case management team, who described her as making significant progress.
Ellard told the panel before the decision was made that there was nothing Virk could have possibly said or done to deserve such treatment.
“It wasn’t about her,” she said. “She should have been at home with her family who loved her, not with us that night, and I’m very sorry.”
The two-member panel has ruled that the six-month day parole period will begin as soon as Ellard enters the treatment program.
Her parole officer said the last substance abuse issue she had in prison was in June 2015 and she has not been violent in more than a decade.
It’s unclear whether Ellard’s infant son, who lives with her in prison, would be able to join her at the residential substance abuse treatment centre.
She became pregnant last year after having conjugal visits with her boyfriend, who is in prison and is scheduled to return to the community soon.
She said she intends to co-parent with him but that if he commits a crime or starts using drugs, she is prepared to leave him.
“As much as I love him, if I had to let go … for the sake of myself and my child, I would.”
Ellard first applied for day parole in 2016 and was denied, but in February she was granted temporary escorted absences to go to parenting programs and doctor’s appointments with her baby.
She has served about 15 years in prison, having spent some periods out on bail. She was convicted of second-degree murder in 2005 after three trials.
A court heard that Ellard and several other teens swarmed and beat Virk, before Ellard and a teenage boy followed her across a bridge, smashed her head into a tree and held her underwater until she drowned.
Warren Glowatski was also convicted of second-degree murder and granted full parole in 2010.
Ellard has recently assumed more responsibility for her part in the murder, saying she rolled Virk’s unconscious body into the Gorge waterway.
Ellard continued to deny holding the girl’s head underwater on Thursday.
“I am adamant that didn’t happen,” she told the panel. “Someone who had been beaten that badly, you wouldn’t need to hold them under water.”
Zuk and another panel member, Linda Cross, pressed her to explain why she pushed Virk’s body into the water.
Ellard said she was terrified that Virk would tell police about the beating.
“I had never seen anything like that,” Ellard said. “Either she was dead or she was dying. I just wanted to get rid of her.”
Ellard broke down in tears often during the hearing. Cross commented that she appeared to be struggling to speak about drowning Virk.
“It’s a hard thing to hear coming out of my own mouth,” Ellard said.
When asked who was responsible for Virk’s death, she replied, “I am.”
Cross asked her to explain how she was responsible.
“She drowned, and I put her in the water.”