An Edmonton man convicted of killing his pregnant wife and dumping her body in a ditch north of the city has been granted full parole.
“Given your assessed low risk, employment stability and your demonstrated abilities to live a law-abiding lifestyle the board does not find that your risk would be undue on an expanded form of conditional release,” the board said in a written decision.
“Therefore, full parole is granted.”
White was convicted in 2006 of second-degree murder and offering an indignity to a dead body in the death of his wife.
Liana White was four months pregnant with the couple’s second child when she was fatally stabbed in July 2005.
She was reported missing after her SUV was discovered in a park near the White home in northwest Edmonton.
In the days that followed, White held a high-profile news conference outside the family’s home on Warwick Crescent in the Dunluce neighbourhood and organized searches for her body.
It was during one of those searches that White and Liana’s mother found her badly decomposed body in a ditch near St. Albert.
The parole board noted that Michael White had disposed of his wife’s body and “cleaned up” evidence from his crime.
During his trial, police tesified officers who had been following White saw him retrieve two garbage bags from an area on the city’s outskirts two days after his wife’s disappearance; he later putting them out for garbage pickup.
Investigators instead collected the bags and found they contained clothing, paper towels and latex gloves that had Liana White’s blood on them, as well as a broken lamp and other items. Some items also had Michael White’s DNA on them.
A judge described White’s offence as “the most reprehensible and extreme form of domestic violence,” the parole board wrote.
White was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 17 years. His appeal of his convictions was rejected by Alberta’s highest court.
The parole board noted that White continues to maintain his innocence.
“Your stance of innocence has prevented you from possible insight,” it wrote, adding that White’s case management team felt he demonstrated a “good deal of accountability and victim empathy,” as best as he could.
Dena Gallant was a neighbour of the Whites at the time of the murder. She said the time has flown by and she’s surprised to hear White has been released already.
“My feelings are really mixed. On one hand, I think if he served his time, then he has a right to go and try to live his life, get a job and try to be employable and all that,” she said on Tuesday.
“On the other hand, he’s the guy who has to live with what he’s done for the rest of his life.
“He has to live with what he did to Liana and the baby. I don’t know how anyone can live with that.”
Gallant said Liana’s disappearance was a distressing time for many people in her neighbourhood, who were initially led to believe by White that his wife had been taken by someone.
“So I thought, well, Liana had brown hair — I had brown hair. You know, she lived in a house with a certain floor plan — I lived in a house with the same floor plan. It could have been me and it could have been my neighbour across the street.
“It was a really disturbing time for all of us.”
“That aspect, it upsets me now, to be honest with you, because it was a very devastating time for all of us,” she said through tears.
Gallant launched a petition after White was released on bail and allowed to return to the neighbourhood.
She was also involved in efforts to enact a Canadian version of the United States’ Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which recognizes an embryo or fetus in utero as a legal victim if they are injured or killed during an assault, murder or one of dozens of other crimes.
It was passed after California mother Laci Peterson, who was eight months’ pregnant with her fetus named Conner, was killed by her husband Scott Peterson in December 2002.
Gallant said the private members Bill C-484 made it through a second reading in the House of Commons, but died when the 2008 federal election was called.
“I believe we still need a law like that,” Gallant said about the controversial law.
It was opposed by the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, which called it a step towards re-criminalizing abortion, saying it could also criminalize pregnant women for behaviours perceived to harm their fetuses.
Gallant says that is not the case.
“People would say, ‘Well, you’re trying to change the abortion laws,’ but now Roe v. Wade has been overturned and it’s not about that.
“It’s about wanting to protect a wanted child — a child that is loved and wanted and expected in the world. So it’s two different things.”
She said she didn’t have the energy to start the bill process over again from scratch after that election, but believes Canada needs stiffer penalties when a pregnant woman is killed.
“There’s some sort of comfort knowing that if somebody murders a pregnant woman, that he gets charged for two murders and not one.”
Conditions of White’s full parole include that he have no contact with Liana White’s family unless they request it and that he report any changes in his current relationship with his fiancee and any new relationships with women.
Michael White was granted day parole from Beaver Creek Institution in Gravenhurst, Ont., in February 2021, which was extended several times.
He has been taking extended weekend passes at a condo with his fiancee, “with no concerns noted” and started a new job in January that allows him to work on a variety of heavy equipment, the parole board said.
White plans to remarry and to travel, the board said.
“Your fiancee is considered a positive collateral contact and aware of your offending and release conditions,” it wrote. “You maintain support in the community from some friends and family.”
Previous parole board decisions granted White unescorted temporary absences from the Beaver Creek Institution to help him get familiar with the city of Barrie, Ont., and a halfway house there, as well as to spend time with family, particularly the couple’s now-adult daughter.
— With files from Kiernan Green, The Canadian Press