Canadians might expect that people who commit murders will serve lengthy sentences in prison or high-security psychiatric facilities.  

But that is not always the case. looks at several high-profile murder cases that resulted in controversial releases, transfers or paroles.

Terri-Lynne McClintic

Terri-Lynn McClintic

Terri-Lynne McClintic was convicted of first-degree murder in the kidnapping, rape and murder of eight-year-old Victoria (Tori) Stafford in 2009. She was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.

But late last year, McClintic was transferred from the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ont., to an Indigenous healing lodge in Saskatchewan. Tori’s father, Rodney Stafford, said he didn’t learn of the transfer until months later.

The controversial transfer became a hotly debated issue on Parliament Hill, as the Conservatives demanded that the Liberal government reverse the correctional officials’ decision. Critics of the transfer said a convicted child killer belongs in a high-security facility, not a healing lodge.

Tori’s father said the decision to transfer McClintic should be seen as a “full-out mistake” and a moral issue, rather than a political one. 

Elizabeth Wettlaufer

Elizabeth Wettlaufer

The southern Ontario nurse convicted of murdering eight seniors in her care received a life sentence for her crimes in June, 2017.

But family members of some of her victims learned more than a year later that she had been transferred to a psychiatric hospital in Quebec.

Daniel Silcox, whose father was one of Wettlaufer’s victims, said he was “conflicted” about her transfer to what he believed was a facility with recreational facilities and gardening.

But a spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said that Wettlaufer was transferred to Pinel Institute in Montreal, “a maximum security forensic psychiatric facility” where “offenders there are kept under lock and key.”

Goodale’s office said offenders have no computer access at that facility and can only watch TV in one common room, with staff present.

Matthew de Grood

Matthew de Grood

Matthew de Grood was found not criminally responsible for killing five young people at a Calgary house party in 2014. Court heard that he was suffering from a mental disorder when he attacked and killed Zackariah Rathwell, Jordan Segura, Kaitlin Perras, Josh Hunter, and Lawrence Hong.

This week, the Alberta Review Board decided to move de Grood from a secure psychiatric facility to the Alberta Hospital in Edmonton where he could be granted supervised day passes. De Grood’s lawyer said that his client has been a model patient, who expressed remorse for the killings.

But the victims’ families have opposed the move, saying de Grood should never be re-integrated into the community. 

Penny Boudreau

Penny Boudreau

Penny Boudreau, who was sentenced to life in prison for killing her 12-year-old daughter Karissa in 2008, was recently granted escorted leaves to attend church.

In its June 28 decision, the Parole Board of Canada approved Boudreau’s application for four escorted temporary absences from prison over the course of one year so she can attend church.

Karissa’s father told CTV Atlantic that he was shocked by the parole board’s decision.

During Boudreau’s sentencing hearing in 2009, court heard that her live-in boyfriend had given her an ultimatum and told her to choose between him and her daughter. Boudreau strangled her daughter with a piece of twine and reported her missing.

Vince Li

vince li

In a killing that shocked the country a decade ago, 22-year-old Tim McLean was beheaded on a Greyhounds bus in Manitoba by a fellow bus passenger.

The man arrested in McLean’s gruesome death, Vince Li, was found not criminally responsible for the murder, on the account of his schizophrenia diagnosis.

Li, who now goes by the name Will Baker, received an absolute discharge in 2017, after Manitoba’s Criminal Code Review Board decided he was no longer a “significant threat” to public safety.

A lawyer for the McLean family called it “a travesty of justice.”

Kelly Ellard

Kelly Ellard and her father

Two decades after the brutal beating and drowning of 14-year-old Reena Virk in British Columbia, her killer was granted conditional approval for day parole in 2017.

Kelly Ellard, now in her mid-30s, was granted day parole for six months, on the condition that she complete a residential treatment program for substance abuse.

Even as it granted the conditional parole, the two-member panel said Ellard had spent years “lying about the facts” and minimizing her role in the “heinous” crime.

Court had heard that Ellard, then 15, and several other teens swarmed and beat Virk before Ellard and a teenage boy smashed her head into a tree and held her underwater until she drowned.

Ellard was allowed conjugal visits with her boyfriend in prison, and had a child as a result of that relationship.

Young offender who murdered her family

A woman who was only 12 years old when she participated in the murders of her entire family in Medicine Hat, Alta, served an 8 ½ -year sentence before being released in 2016.

The woman, who cannot be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, is believed to be the youngest person ever convicted of a multiple murder in Canada.

She served four years in a psychiatric institution and 4 ½ years under conditional supervision in the community.

Before she was released, the judge told the woman that she had made enough progress that her family “would be proud.”

Jeremy Steinke, the woman’s much older boyfriend at the time of the murders, was also convicted in the killings of her mother, father and younger brother. 

Karla Homolka

Karla Homolka

In what was dubbed “the deal with the devil,” Karla Homolka made a notorious plea bargain with prosecutors and received a 12-year sentence for her role in the horrific murders of Ontario schoolgirls Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy, in exchange for her testimony against then-husband Paul Bernardo.

Homolka had told investigators that Bernardo abused her and forced her to take part in his crimes. But videotapes later surfaced showing that she had a more active role in the torture and killings of the young girls as she’d claimed.

Homolka was released from prison in 2005. She tried to escape media attention by changing her name and eventually moving to the Caribbean. But a Canadian journalist tracked Homolka down in 2012 and revealed that she was married, with three children.

More recently, Homolka made headlines after it was revealed that she was living in Quebec and had spent time with students at her children’s Montreal school.

With files from The Canadian Press and’s Jackie Dunham