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Convicted murderer who won 'faint hope' at parole while maintaining innocence still seeking release

Edmonton Journal logo Edmonton Journal 2022-12-04 Jonny Wakefield
Convicted first-degree murderer Landon Karas was granted a chance at early parole after a © Supplied photo/Facebook Convicted first-degree murderer Landon Karas was granted a chance at early parole after a

More than a year after a jury granted him a rare chance at early parole , an Alberta man who has spent nearly half his life in prison for a murder he claims he did not commit remains in custody.

Landon Karas has spent 20 years behind bars for the murder of Doreen Bradley, a businesswoman who was sexually assaulted, strangled and stabbed 30 times in her Bonnyville-area home in 2002. Karas was convicted of first-degree murder in Bradley’s death and sentenced to life with no parole for at least 25 years.

Last year, Karas  managed to convince a jury  at a “faint hope” hearing that he deserves a shot at early release prior to his current parole eligibility dates, which are 2024 for day parole and 2027 for full parole. While the reasoning behind the jury’s decision is secret, Karas argued throughout the hearing that he did not kill Bradley.

Karas’s claims of innocence have complicated his attempts at day parole, which the Parole Board of Canada denied in May. He successfully appealed the decision but remains in prison pending a new hearing.

Now in his 40s, Karas was 21 when he was arrested for Bradley’s murder. The owner of the local A&W restaurant, Bradley’s body was discovered in her rural home by an employee on July 15, 2002.

At the time of Bradley’s killing, Karas was working as a labourer and caught up in a love triangle. Karas was charged with damaging his then-girlfriend’s car and punching the father of her children, which he later attributed to anger-management issues. “I made myself a real easy target in that community when a violent event happened,” Karas told the faint hope hearing.

After months without leads, police identified Karas as a person of interest using a DNA “dragnet” that collected 58 voluntary samples from men who knew Bradley. Karas provided two DNA samples, which matched semen found on Bradley’s body (Karas’s lawyer revealed during the faint hope hearing that Karas has since been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis and cannot produce sperm.)  No other evidence linked Karas to the crime scene, and no murder weapon was ever found. Karas appealed his 2005 conviction to the Alberta Court of Appeal, which upheld the jury’s verdict , as well as the Supreme Court of Canada, which declined to hear the case .

A person convicted  a first-degree murder must spend at least 15 years in prison before applying for a faint hope hearing, which usually hinge on whether a jury believes a change in the offender’s circumstances deserves leniency. 

‘Whether you admit to the crime or not …’

Karas’s May parole hearing concluded he would be an “undue risk” if released to a halfway house, in part because he has not taken programming to address sexual violence.

“Particularly for an offender with the potential for sexually based violence with little understanding of their offence cycle, it is imperative to the board that you demonstrate the successful management of your risks and needs on a longer-term basis through (approved temporary absences from prison),” the two-member parole board panel told Karas.

“Regardless of whether you admit to the crime or not, you have been convicted of first-degree murder that involved sexual violence. Without the identification of that offence cycle and the associated risk factors, the board cannot fully assess your progress through your sentence as your risk factors have not been fully identified.”

A review by the parole board’s appeal division, however, found legal errors in the previous panel’s reasoning and opted to send the case back to a new hearing.

The appeal division said the previous panel was wrong to find it could not assess Karas’s risk because he has not taken sex offender programming.

“There was ample information before the board as to whether you required sex offender programming to target your sexual risk factors,” it told Karas.

The appeal panel added that denying responsibility for a crime “cannot, in and of itself, preclude one from being granted parole.” While denial of a crime will always be a factor in the board’s assessment, “it will only be one factor and must be considered in the light of all other relevant factors.”

Kathryn Quinlan and Alexandra Seaman, Karas’s lawyers, declined to comment.

“Because of the sensitive nature of his offence and the impact which the continued media coverage has on the family Mr. Karas does not feel comfortable commenting,” Quinlan said in an email.

No date has been set for Karas’s next parole hearing.

jwakefield@postmedia.com

twitter.com/jonnywakefield

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