WATCH ABOVE: One of the two men jailed for helping James Roszko ambush and murder four Mounties is free to be with his family. Kendra Slugoski reports.
EDMONTON — A man convicted for his role in the shooting deaths of four Mounties in rural Alberta has been granted parole, effective immediately. Shawn Hennessey appeared before the Parole Board of Canada in Edmonton on Tuesday morning.
Hennessey, who is 35, must abide by five conditions: he can’t drink alcohol, can’t do drugs, must have no contact with criminals or suspected criminals, and is not to contact any members of the victims’ families.
He is also not allowed to go to the community of Lac La Biche. Grace Johnston, the mother of one of the RCMP officers, lives there and she requested Hennessey not be allowed into the town.
“For her to see me, I can’t imagine what that would do to any of the families,” said Hennessey on Tuesday morning.
Hennessey says he constantly thinks about the hurt he helped cause.
“She has suffered tremendous loss and for her to have to look at the man responsible, I can’t imagine, I can’t fathom how that would make her feel.”
The Parole Board said Hennessey has been functioning well in public since he was granted day release to a halfway house last fall.
While on day parole, Hennessey applied for jobs with mixed success.
“One gentleman recognized the name right away and said he was not interested.”
Another employer in Edmonton gave him a shot, and the job worked out. He has since been promoted.
Hennessey said he also has a construction job lined up in Barrhead, Alta., where his wife and two daughters live.
Hennessey said he thinks a lot about the inevitable confrontations with people who don’t like him.
“I’m a different person today,” he said.
He said there was a time he wanted to go to a parade in Barrhead. The community didn’t want him there though.
Parole officer Marilyn Kenny said, “people don’t forget and you’ll be known for that,” adding it has been a pleasure to work with Hennessey.
“You have made the gains you need to make. We are granting full parole today,” Kenny said in making the board’s decision.
Hennessey and his brother-in-law, Dennis Cheeseman, pleaded guilty to manslaughter for giving James Roszko a gun and a ride to Roszko’s farm near Mayerthorpe in 2005.
Constables Peter Schiemann, Anthony Gordon, Brock Myrol and Leo Johnston had been guarding a Quonset hut on Roszko’s farm. Roszko ambushed and killed the officers before killing himself.
Hennessey was sentenced in 2009 to 10 years and four months and Cheeseman was handed seven years and two months. They both lost court appeals arguing for shorter sentences.
Cheeseman was granted statutory release in 2013 after serving two-thirds of his sentence. He later pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance for having prescription drugs that were not in his name. He was fined $1,000.
“I wish him well,” said Rev. Don Schiemann, Const. Peter Shiemann’s father, after Hennessey was granted full parole.
“He’s got a fresh start and I hope he takes full advantage of it.”
Hennessey apologized to the family at his sentencing and Rev. Shiemann said he forgave him.
Const. Brock Myrol’s father Keith hopes this development will stop all the legal notifications and reminders the family receives about Hennessey and enables them to move forward.
“We knew it was coming,” said Keith when asked if he was surprised by the decision.
“What we want him to be a decent human being, make a good living for his family and stay out of trouble. That’s what we want him to be.”
Brock’s mother Colleen told Global News she hopes Hennessey is being honest when he says he feels for the officers’ families.
“I am hoping that it’s true,” she said. “Down the road someday sometime I hope to sit and talk to him personally.”
“I want him to tell me the whole story.”
Hennessey told the parole board last year that he wanted to honour memories of the fallen officers by proving that he’s turned his life around.
“Four families have greatly suffered. I can’t imagine what they have to go through each and every day, still,” said Hennessey.
At the time the board noted that Hennessey had taken responsibility for his actions and shown empathy for his victims. It heard that Hennessey had completed his high school equivalency diploma while behind bars.
Hennessey’s statutory release date was set for Dec. 29, 2015.
With files from The Canadian Press