The Parole Board of Canada has granted a Nova Scotia woman – sentenced to life in prison for killing her daughter – four escorted leaves to attend church.

Penny Boudreau admitted to strangling her 12-year-old daughter Karissa with a piece of twine and hiding the body near a river in Bridgewater, N.S. in January 2008. She reported her daughter missing and made an emotional appeal to the public for help in locating her. Two weeks later, Karissa’s remains were found on the banks of the LaHave River.

Boudreau was arrested four months later and charged with first-degree murder in the death of her only child. She pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in 2009 and was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 20 years.

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

The decision states that Boudreau, now in her mid-forties, will be accompanied at all times by two Correctional Service of Canada staff members during each four-hour trip.

The board cited a recent assessment of Boudreau that determined her to be a low risk to reoffend. It also said that she has never been a security risk in the more than nine years she’s been incarcerated.

During her sentencing hearing in 2009, the court heard that Boudreau had been involved in a turbulent relationship at the time of her daughter’s killing. An agreed statement of facts stated that her live-in boyfriend had given her an ultimatum and told her to choose between him and her daughter.

The statement also described Boudreau’s account of her daughter’s final moments, in which she begged her mother to stop.

“Mommy, don’t…” Karissa is believed to have said before she died.

The parole board noted that Boudreau killed her daughter in a desperate attempt to maintain control and to hold on to an “unhealthy” relationship.

“The Board believes that you were in an unhealthy relationship and when faced with the choice of maintaining the relationship or dispensing with your child, cognitive distortions allowed you to take the life of your daughter.”

It also said Boudreau had borderline personality traits at the time of the murder and that she was diagnosed with depression and anxiety following her arrest.

In granting permission for the escorted leaves, the parole board said Boudreau should spend time away from the prison for “personal development for rehabilitative purposes.”

The decision said Boudreau has demonstrated greater self-awareness and she has actively participated in her correctional plan. She has been classified a minimum security offender since 2012 and she successfully completed a number of correctional programs in prison, the report also stated.

Boudreau told the board that attending church is “very important” to her and that she needs to develop a rapport with people in a public setting.

“You feel that you need to be in a ‘real’ setting as opposed to the sheltered environment of institutional life. You want to use your time to develop supports as you hope to eventually be released to this community,” the decision said.