A Calgary man charged with murder in the death of a woman whose burned body was found in a park last month had been behind bars for a similar killing less than a year ago, causing some in the community to question the justice system.
Christopher Ward Dunlop, who is 48, was charged this week with second-degree murder and causing an indignity to a body in the death of 58-year-old Judy Maerz.
Her body was found by a passerby in Deerfoot Athletic Park on Feb. 16.
Laura Furlan was found dead in another Calgary Park in 2009. Dunlop pleaded guilty to manslaughter in her death and was sentenced in 2015 to six-and-a-half years.
Dunlop was pre-approved for statutory release in December 2019, and completed his prison sentence on June 3, 2022, according to documents from the Parole Board of Canada.
A risk assessment at the time he was released suggested Dunlop had a low to moderate risk to reoffend.
“It is reported you took full responsibility for your offences,” said a pre-release report. “It appears that you have the motivation for continuing to maintain necessary behavioural changes to help with lowering your risk.
“The clinician reported you admitted that a significant risk factor for yourself would be feelings of rejection or being used.”
Dunlop was forbidden from drinking alcohol and being in contact with the victim’s family as part of his release conditions.
Kelley Sundberg, associate professor with the criminal justice department at Mount Royal University, said he can understand why people are calling the criminal justice system into question over this, but that technically, the system doesn’t seem to have erred.
“Unfortunately, sometimes this happens, and it’s tragic and it’s heartbreaking and it’s unfair… There are going to be times when we see people who have been convicted of very serious offences reoffending and engaging in yet again very violent acts,” he said.
Sundberg said this is an example of how the justice system is imperfect.
“This is an individual who served their time. They were sentenced and they served their 11 years and they reoffended, and now the court will deal with it again,” said Sundberg.
Sundberg said one aspect that may end up under examination is Dunlop’s plea bargain – he was originally set to stand trial on a charge of first-degree murder.
— with files from The Canadian Press