BOWDEN, Alta. – It’s been 30 years, but the loss of her family is still very much on Kelly Nielsen’s mind.
“It’s never easy when you think about what happened because of the way they died. Everything was horrible,” said Nielsen, who was 18 and just out of high school when the bodies of her grandparents, aunt and uncle and two cousins were found in a burned-out car.
The family of six had been missing for more than a year after disappearing while on an ill-fated camping trip near Wells Gray Provincial Park in the interior of British Columbia in August 1982.
“You can put it in the back of your mind for a while but it does come up every now and again. You never really forget.”
Nielsen, who lives in Surrey, B.C., was planning to join a small army of family members Tuesday at Bowden Institution north of Calgary to attend another parole hearing for David Shearing, the man who committed the gruesome mass murder three decades ago.
Shearing, who now goes by his mother’s maiden name of Ennis, shot and killed George and Edith Bentley, their daughter Jackie and her husband Bob Johnson. But he kept the Johnsons’ daughters Janet, 13, and Karen, 11, alive for almost a week and sexually assaulted them before taking them into the woods, one at a time, and killing them, too.
All six bodies were stuffed in the Johnsons’ car, which was rolled down a hill and torched.
Shearing pleaded guilty and received the maximum sentence of life without chance at parole for 25 years. He’s now eligible to apply for parole every two years.
“It takes you back to 1982 every time,” said Nielsen, who along with other family members, was planning to read a victim impact statement.
“I want them to know that it’s never ending for us. Every two years we’re reliving it again and it’s painful. If they do make a decision to let him out, they had better be really, really sure. I really wouldn’t want to see him back out in society that’s for sure.”
Shearing made a similar request for parole in 2008, but was denied. The board cited a number of unresolved problems and said he was diagnosed with mild indications of psychopathy.
“The board is concerned that you still struggle with pornography issues and have limited insight into the role substance abuse has contributed to both your sexual deviancies and violent offending,” the board said at the time.
The board also questioned whether Shearing understood the full impact of his crime.
“Although you verbalize accepting responsibility for your violent crimes, you minimize your actual actions until more closely challenged on different occasions by the board.
“Considering you have previously addressed these issues through programming/counselling, your continued minimization demonstrates a lack of insight and understanding of key factors that contributed to your offending.”