Advertisement

‘It’s still very emotional’: Friends, family of murdered Okanagan family prepare for parole hearing

Click to play video: 'Petition started to keep killer behind bars' Petition started to keep killer behind bars
Petition started to keep killer behind bars – Feb 17, 2021

It was a mass murder that rocked the community of West Kelowna.

Six members of one family were brutally murdered while camping in the Wells Gray area in August 1982.

“It’s still very emotional because you have to think about what those girls went through,” Tammy Arishenkoff told Global News.

Read more: Petition to keep one of Canada’s worst mass murderers behind bars for 1982 killings

Arishenkoff is referring to her friends, Karen and Janet Johnson.

The sisters, 11 and 13 years old, were camping with their parents, Bob and Jackie Johnson, and their grandparents, Edith and George Bentley, when all six were killed.

The adults were shot first.

Story continues below advertisement

The girls were abducted and tortured and sexually assaulted for days before they, too, were killed.

All six bodies were found in the Johnson family car, which had been set ablaze.

Click to play video: 'Penticton mass murderer faces families of murder victims' Penticton mass murderer faces families of murder victims
Penticton mass murderer faces families of murder victims – Oct 15, 2020

David Shearing, now known as David Ennis, was eventually convicted of six counts of second-degree murder. He was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.

With that minimum sentence served, Ennis will once again be eligible to apply for parole this summer.

“Absolutely terrified,” Arishenkoff said when asked how she feels about Ennis having that opportunity.

Arishenkoff has launched an online petition to keep Ennis behind bars, one that will be presented to the parole board at a hearing in July.

Story continues below advertisement

“He might be granted parole … so that is the worst-case scenario,” she said.

“Our hope is that he won’t, that our petition drive and our letter campaign and the media exposure that we’re getting and the country’s opposition to this will prevent that from happening.”

Read more: Mass murderer forgoes parole hearing

Ennis has been denied parole twice already, and even though he’s already served his minimum sentence, Arishenkoff said it’s not enough.

“Our justice system is meant to be reformative and rehabilitative unlike many other countries where all they care about is punishing you,” she said. “He’s not done the work, he is not remorseful, he has not served enough time.”

The petition has already garnered more than 25,000 signatures in just over a week.

“I think it would be a catastrophic failure of the system,” Arishenkoff said. “Ask yourself: If you have a young daughter if you want this guy living in your community or even being able to prowl around your community, because 62-63 is not an old man.”

Click to play video: 'Edmonton man Michael White, convicted of murdering pregnant wife, granted day parole' Edmonton man Michael White, convicted of murdering pregnant wife, granted day parole
Edmonton man Michael White, convicted of murdering pregnant wife, granted day parole – Feb 8, 2021

While family and friends are forced to relive the painful memories every time a parole hearing is held, they say they’ll never give up fighting to keep the killer behind bars.

Story continues below advertisement

“The legacy of Janet and Karen and what they endured in the final days of their life is what propels us forward,” said Arishenkoff.

“So there’s no quit in our team, the voice is getting louder.”

Ennis waived his right to a 2016 hearing at the last minute. He can reapply for parole every five years.

Click here for more information about the petition.

Click to play video: 'Vigil to remember Vernon mass murder' Vigil to remember Vernon mass murder
Vigil to remember Vernon mass murder – Apr 5, 2018

Sponsored content