It was a dramatic and gut-wrenching day at Archambault Penitentiary in Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines for the family of a Montreal girl murdered back in 2006.
When she was 17 years old, Brigitte Serre died after being stabbed 72 times by Sebastien Simon at a St-Leonard gas station. Simon, who was 18 at the time of the incident, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
Thirteen years into that sentence, Simon, now 31, asked for the right to leave prison on supervised visits to spend time with his wife at her home. Simon’s request was denied after he, his lawyer Isabel Simao and his parole officer Karl Mooney spoke to the board for over five hours about his road toward rehabilitation.
“It was a long time before I realized the damage I had done,” Simon told parole board members Janie Fortin and Jessie Landry-Marquis. “I took someone’s life, but I damaged so many others, too.”
Simon explained to the parole board that he believes his rehabilitation has reached a point at which he should be allowed to leave the prison four times a year for seven hours at a time under supervision. He revealed that he’s been married for two years and wants to be able to visit his wife at her home.
“We have a really good, positive relationship,” he told the parole board. “We are really in love.”
Serre’s family was angry they hadn’t been informed in advance that their daughter’s killer was married.
“Just to hear that he was married really got to me. And that his wife has children! She was willing to accept this guy who killed someone into her house?” Serre’s stepmother Darlene Ryan exclaimed after the hearing.
Serre’s family delivered victim impact statements during the hearing. Her parents, sisters and cousin discussed how their lives had been damaged by her loss.
“We’re all dead, too, in our own ways,” said Serre’s cousin.
Simon’s team outlined his troubled life of crime, which started with alcoholic, abusive parents. Simon told the hearing that he started using drugs and alcohol at nine years old and spent his whole childhood in and out of the system. He was involved in gangs and sold drugs. Simon had alcohol and speed in his system the night he killed Serre.
“Everything a child needs to become a productive member of society, he did not get it,” said Simao.
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Since being incarcerated, Simon has called six different prisons home. He started in maximum security and, with good behaviour, worked his way down to the minimum security part of Archambault Penitentiary. He has completed high school in prison and obtained a number of CEGEP-level attestations. His parole officer explained that Simon has been “a conformist” and that he hasn’t been involved with gangs, drugs or alcohol since 2010.
Both before and after Simon made his case, Serre’s family delivered their statements, explaining that they had dealt with guilt, depression and other health problems since losing her.
“It was one of the hardest things you ever have to do,” said Ryan. “I thought I wasn’t going to stop crying at all through half of it.”
In the end, the parole board decline Simon’s request, recognizing his “considerable efforts” but saying that his rehab is far from over.
For their part, the family said that when he tries again, they will be there.
“If it’s not us, and we die before he comes out, it’ll be our kids,” said Ryan.