A petition and gofundme campaign have been launched in support of the family of murdered Surrey girl Heather Thomas.
Launched Tuesday (June 1) by family friend Rebecca Darnell, the fundraiser aims to raise $50,000 “to provide treatment, counselling and education” for Heather’s brother and mother; the petition – signed by more than 1,000 people as of Wednesday morning – is calling for a review and overturning of a recent parole board decision that granted Heather’s killer, Shane Ertmoed, temporary escorted absences from custody.
“Heather’s mother and brother need financial assistance to obtain and begin the healing process through professional counselling and education,” Darnell writes on the gofundme page.
“Heather’s mother is now 49 years of age, she has been deeply impacted emotionally and mentally since Heather’s murder. In order to help her heal from the constant and devastating memories of what happened to her young child, she requires professional counselling. It is her wish to attend school to train to become a Doula, so that she can assist others in bringing new life into the world.”
Heather died on Oct. 1, 2000 at the hands of Ertmoed, who was later convicted of first-degree murder for the killing and handed a life sentence.
Ten-year-old Heather had been playing outside with some children during a stay at her father’s townhouse complex in Cloverdale when a neighbour convinced her to go inside his apartment.
When Ertmoed tried to sexually assault Heather, she struggled and he killed her. Her body was found weeks later in Alouette Lake.
Ertmoed’s application for temporary escorted leaves from custody was granted last month, following a virtual parole-board hearing on May 4 – a decision Heather’s mom, Jody Aspin, described as “beyond disappointing.”
In a complaint submitted to the Parole Board of Canada calling for a reversal of the decision, Darnell – who has supported Heather’s family throughout the ordeal, after becoming friends at the outset of the search – indicates her rights to information, participation, protection and restitution were infringed on.
She states that information relied on by the board in making the decision – including supporting documents related to treatment programs and risk assessments – was not disclosed to victims. Other concerns cited include that the board did not consider Ertmoed’s prior criminal activity; and, that the board did not consider the security of the victims.
“Ertmoed is and will always be a Danger to our Society,” Darnell writes.
Parole Board of Canada officials said they could not comment on the specifics of a given case, but said any registered victim who believes that their rights under the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights (CVBR) have not been respected has the right to file a complaint.
According to information online about that process, complaints that fall outside the scope of the CVBR include those regarding parole decisions.
The petition, in addition to echoing the complaint’s call for the decision to be overturned, appeals for a public inquiry into the sentencing and incarceration of pedophiles who have taken a life; including consideration of “no release under any circumstances” for such offenders.
It’s directed at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti, Cloverdale-Langley City MP Tamara Jansen and North Okanagan-Shuswap MP Mel Arnold – the latter, given Ertmoed’s hometown connection to Vernon.
Ertmoed’s sentence does not expire, however, he is eligible for day parole on Nov. 3, 2022, and for full parole as of Nov. 3, 2025. His escorted absences – to take effect after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted – are for a period of one year, for no more than eight hours per day, Monday to Friday.
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