Remember Karla Homolka? She’s Free Now and Around Kids

What would you do if you found out that an ex-convict was volunteering their time to help out with school field trips and class activities? Now, what if you learned that this particular ex-convict had been accused of and imprisoned for committing some of the most heinous crimes against humanity?

Paul Bernardo, Karla Homolka / Recording tape / Karla Homolka / Karla Homolka.
Source: Getty Images

Yeah, chances are you’d fall somewhere between extremely suspicious and downright outraged. Well, that’s how parents in the suburb of Chateauguay feel. You see, Karla Homolka, is a serial killer who was sent to prison – with her husband Paul Bernardo – in 1993. While he’s still behind bars, Homolka was released in 2005. She’s been free, walking the streets, and apparently volunteering at an elementary school.

The Ken and Barbie Killers

It’s not every day that you hear of female serial killers. Statistics show that only about 15% of serial killers are female. Karla Homolka was one of them, and the crimes she committed with her then husband, Paul Bernardo, were some of the worst ever reported. What’s worse is that one of their victims was Homolka’s very own sister.

A dated portrait of Paul and Karla.
Paul Bernardo, Karla Homolka. Source: Pinterest

Bernardo and Homolka worked together in the darkest, most twisted of ways to rape and kill three teenagers, Tammy Homolka being one of them. The whole story was so shocking and sensational that the killer couple were dubbed the “Ken and Barbie Killers.” (Eerily, Bernardo’s father’s name was Ken).

The Ultimate Sacrifice: Her Own Sister

Back in December of 1990, Homolka, then a veterinary technician, stole a vial of sedatives from the clinic’s office. One night not long after, during a dinner party her family was hosting, she drugged her 15-year-old sister, Tammy. She then carried the sedated teen to the basement and presented her to her boyfriend.

A portrait of Tammy Homolka.
Tammy Homolka. Source: Pinterest

Paul Bernardo was waiting for Tammy – his virgin sacrifice. Bernardo went on to become known as the Scarborough Rapist. But together, they became Ken and Barbie, the killer duo with killer looks (hence the nickname) who embarked on a killing spree that lasted years. Of course, you’re thinking, “what the f***?”

From Girlfriend to Partner in Crime

Bernardo and Homolka met three years before she chose to sacrifice her sister, in 1987. Homolka was 17 when she met Bernardo, then 23, at a hotel in Scarborough, a suburb of Toronto. It was the 1980s, the era of hairspray, cocaine, and partying.

A photo of Karla on her wedding day.
Karla Homolka. Photo by Dick Loek/Toronto Star/Getty Images

The teenager was smitten with Bernardo, a soft-spoken college grad who was about to become an accountant. Homolka didn’t know at first that her new man was a predator lying in wait, but she would soon come to find out and, worse, become his partner in crime.

Karla Wasn’t Like Other Girls

Underneath his good looks and charm lay a man who despised women. He had a fetish for bondage, and because of it, he couldn’t maintain a relationship, because most girls didn’t enjoy being tied up when getting intimate. Homolka, on the other hand, wasn’t like other girls.

A portrait of Karla.
Source: CBS News

From the start of their relationship, she showed Bernardo that she was up for anything, especially in bed. Let’s not ignore the fact that she was an attractive, thin blonde who probably encouraged his sadistic fantasies. Homolka was attracted to both Bernardo and the excitement that came along with him.

What If I Told You…

She was only a teenager, still in high school when she met him, but she felt like she had found the love of her life and knew she was going to spend the rest of her life with him. At one point, he asked her what she would think if he told her he was a rapist.

A picture of Karla and Paul during Christmas.
Source: Pinterest

Again, she wasn’t like other girls, who would have run away faster than the wind. No, Homolka stuck around. Not only did she stay with him, but she also told him that being a rapist only made him cooler in her eyes.

A Method to His Madness

Within two years of confessing his deep dark secret, Bernardo sexually assaulted 11 women. He had a method to his madness, where he would choose his victims – all teenage girls or young women – from the bus. He would make his pick, follow the girl as she exited to a secluded area, and then rape her.

A photo of Paul Bernardo inside a police car.
Paul Bernardo. Peter Power/Toronto Star/Getty Images

Most of the attacks happened outside, but there was at least one instance when he broke into his victim’s home. He not only raped the women, but beat them, abused them physically and verbally, and threatened them so they wouldn’t tell the police.

He Was Just Getting Started

Bernardo’s victim count reached 13, and he was only getting started. There was a report where a victim reported seeing a woman with Bernardo, but the police dismissed the report as an irrelevant small fact. With time, Bernardo became known as the “Scarborough Rapist,” and police tried to figure out his identity.

An image of Paul Bernardo in custody.
Paul Bernardo. Photo by Bernard Weil/Toronto Star/Getty Images

Eventually, in 1990, one victim was able to get a good enough look at him that she had the police make a sketch. For some reason, though, the authorities didn’t publish the sketch for the public to see.

The Police Sketch

In May 1990, the police finally released a computer composite portrait of Bernardo’s face that circulated through the media and the newspapers. Over 16,000 calls came in over the following weeks, but only three of them were from people who said the portrait resembled a man they knew as Paul Bernardo.

An image of the sketch of Paul Bernardo’s face.
Paul Bernardo. Source: YouTube

Investigators located Bernardo and questioned him twice. At the time, he was still living with his parents, who were told their son wasn’t a “likely suspect,” but there were routine measures that needed to take place. And so, they provided samples of his hair, blood, and saliva for DNA testing.

Barbie and Ken Get Engaged

DNA testing was quite new in Canada back then; the Centre of Forensic Sciences (CFS) in Toronto had only one single qualified scientist and one technician. Dozens of men were sampled in the Scarborough Rapist case.

A picture of Paul and Karla smiling at the camera during a party.
Paul Bernardo, Karla Homolka. Source: YouTube

Meanwhile, Homolka and Bernardo were moving along in their creepy relationship. On Christmas Eve 1989, they got engaged. They planned to wed two years later, in June 1991.

A Special Engagement Present

Homolka and Bernardo got engaged on Christmas Eve, 1989, and they planned their wedding for June two years later. A year later, on the night before Christmas Eve 1990, Homolka got her fiancé a special gift. Just as Homolka wasn’t like the others, neither were her gifts.

A photo of Karla and Paul.
Source: Pinterest

What Homolka chose to offer her man was something she hoped would keep him not just close to her but to keep him desiring her. Despite everything she gave Bernardo, she was always insecure that he might leave her.

The Next Best Thing

There was one thing that disappointed Bernardo about Homolka, and that was the fact that she wasn’t a virgin when they met. It’s not technically something you can undo, but Homolka had the next best thing: her younger, virgin sister.

A picture of Tammy Homolka at home.
Tammy Homolka. Source: Pinterest

Tammy was only 15 and for Homolka, she was the perfect sacrifice. Her own blood – her sister – was merely an object to use as a means to an end. It was the perfect plan, Homolka figured, as they already had Tammy’s trust. Bernardo could rape the girl and get away with it.

A “Perfect” Plan

At 20, Homolka was working as a veterinary assistant, and the clinic she worked in had stored various drugs that were used to put animals to sleep. Homolka came up with the idea of sedating her sister. With her unconscious, Bernardo could easily have his way with her.

A picture of Karla Homolka smiling at the camera.
Karla Homolka. Source: Pinterest

Homolka figured that Tammy would probably never even know what happened to her. Homolka stole the drugs from her work and proceeded with her plan during the family gathering at her house. This wasn’t even the first time Homolka had drugged her sister…

They Drugged Her Before

Five months earlier, Homolka crushed some valium and sprinkled it over her sister’s spaghetti at dinner. After the girl passed out, Bernardo sexually abused her in the family basement. Bernardo was no stranger in the Homolka household.

An exterior shot of a veterinary clinic.
Photo by BSIP/Education Images/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

He became a friend of the family’s and even started living there. Not only did Tammy adore her sister’s boyfriend, but so did her parents. On the night of the holiday gathering, Homolka gave her sister a glass of eggnog (laced with the sleeping pill Halcion) and waited for her to pass out. Not long after, Homolka used a cloth soaked in Halothane to keep Tammy knocked out.

Interrupted by an Accidental Death

Another thing that made the couple’s crimes even more sadistic is that they liked to videotape the attacks. Homolka set up the camera and, as Bernardo was raping Tammy, the teenager started to vomit and stopped breathing. Freaked out, they called 911 and scrambled to hide as much of the evidence as possible.

An image of an old VHS video player with videotapes.
Photo by Henri Leduc/Getty Images

Tammy was rushed to the local hospital, where she was pronounced dead after a few hours. Her death was ultimately ruled as accidental. Homolka may have not anticipated her sister’s death, but she is without a doubt her sister’s killer.

That Burn on Her Face, Though…

The Homolkas (the parents and younger sister Lori) were obviously devastated but believed Homolka, Bernardo and the cops when they were told that it was a horrible accident – one brought on by simply too much drinking.

A picture of the Homolkas walking to the courthouse.
Sister Tori Homolka, Mother Dorothy Homolka, Father Karel Homolka. Photo by Bernard Weil/Toronto Star/Getty Images

The police questioned Bernardo and Homolka, though, particularly about the unusual burn mark on Tammy’s face. Bernardo explained that it was a carpet burn the girl sustained when he dragged her to the bedroom. The police believed him. The burn was actually caused by the anesthetic halothane, the drug on the cloth used to keep her knocked out.

On to the Next One

The death of Homolka’s sister didn’t seem to slow Bernardo down. Less than six months later, Bernardo met their next victim in the series of murders. Leslie Mahaffy was, unlike the others, one he didn’t target. He simply bumped into her one night.

A picture of Karla and Tammy’s sister, Tori.
Tori Homolka. Photo by Ron Bull/Toronto Star/Getty Images

The 14-year-old girl was locked out of her house, so Bernardo, seemingly charming to strangers, offered to help her out. He offered her a ride; she accepted and climbed into his car. Some reports say he forced her at knifepoint. He drove her to the apartment he and Homolka were living in (they moved out of the Homolka house after Tammy’s murder).

He Said; She Said

At the apartment, the couple raped and abused her, and, as usual, they videotaped it. Afterward, Homolka fed the girl the same drug as she had her sister, Halcion. At least, that’s what Bernardo later claimed. Homolka, however, testified that it didn’t go down that way.

An image of Paul Bernardo sitting in the backseat of a car.
Paul Bernardo. Photo by Bernard Weil/Toronto Star/Getty Images

She claimed that Bernardo had strangled Leslie. Regardless of how Leslie became unconscious, the couple both cut up her body and placed the pieces of the body in blocks of cement. First, Bernardo had to go to the hardware store to buy sacs of cement, after locating his grandfather’s chain saw.

A Wedding and a Body

Two weeks later, on June 29, 1991, the couple married at Niagara-on-the-Lake. That same day, two fishermen found one of those cement blocks, weighing over 200 pounds, near the shore. In the block was an orthodontic device that used to be inside Leslie’s mouth.

Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka pose for a wedding portrait.
Paul Bernardo, Karla Homolka. Source: Pinterest

They also found human arms, legs, feet and a head in the cement blocks. The day after that, another fisherman found a human torso floating in the water. The remains were soon identified as Leslie Mahaffy. Her parents had reported her missing two weeks earlier.

While They Were Honeymooning in Hawaii…

As the police were investigating the Leslie Mahaffy murder, Homolka and Bernardo were honeymooning in Hawaii. At the time, Tammy’s death, having been reported as an accident, wasn’t under investigation at all. Leslie’s murder was also not considered to be related to the Scarborough Rapist.

A dated picture of Leslie playing in a park.
Leslie Mahaffy. Source: Pinterest

Since Leslie had reportedly experienced some conflict with her parents before she disappeared, the police initially assumed she had run away from home. The Canadian authorities were getting nowhere with the case. They eventually turned to their neighbors from the south to help out.

Asking the FBI for Help

It took about a year for Niagara Regional Police to seek help from the FBI. The FBI helped the Canadian authorities produce a psychological portrait of the murderer, concluding it was a sexual predator who would probably kill again.

A portrait of Leslie.
Leslie Mahaffy. Source: Pinterest

And they were right. Ken and Barbie did kill again, about 10 months after they took Leslie’s life. By then, Homolka and Bernardo had a (nearly) foolproof system: locate the teenager, drug and rape her, kill her and hide the evidence. Hiding the evidence involved lots of lying, but that came easy to both psychopaths.

Scouting the Catholic School for Their Next Victim

On April 16, 1992, they kidnapped their third victim, a 15-year-old named Kristen French. The two were scouting the Holy Cross Secondary School campus in north Toronto, trying to find the right teenage girl. That’s when they spotted Kristen walking home.

A portrait of Kristen French.
Kristen French. Source: Pinterest

They pulled up next to her and asked her to help them read a road map. While Homolka held out the map, Bernardo forced the girl into their car. Homolka then helped him by grasping Kristen’s long hair by the hand. They then took the girl to their home in St. Catherine’s.

Three Days in Hell

Kristen had walked the same route every single day and arrived at home at the same time every afternoon to take her dog out for a walk. Because of her routine, her parents were immediately concerned when she didn’t show up that day.

A dated picture of Kristen with her friends at a school dance.
Source: Pinterest

They called the police as soon as she was a no-show at the house. Within 24 hours, those who saw Kristen get abducted started to come forward. Meanwhile, Homolka and Bernardo continued to rape and torture Kristen for three days. They forced the girl to drink liquor – a change from their typical sedation technique.

Murder and Easter Dinner

They told Kristen that if she listened to them and did what they told her to, they would let her go. Bernardo even made her wear a schoolgirl uniform that matched an outfit Homolka was wearing. On the last day of the torture, April 19, they put an end to her misery and killed her.

A portrait of Kristen French.
Kristen French. Source: Pinterest

Bernardo strangled the teen with an electrical cord, and the couple cut off her hair and left her body in a ditch. Later that evening, they went to Easter dinner at the Homolka residence that her parents were hosting.

Finally, a DNA Match

Authorities found Kristen’s body 11 days later. On April 30, she was discovered about 45 minutes from where the couple had abducted her. She was nude and lying in a ditch with bruises and cigar burns on her body.

An image of the tapes recorded by Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka.
Source: YouTube

Homolka and Bernardo didn’t realize that Kristen would be their last victim. In December 1992, two months after that DNA sample was taken from Bernardo (thanks to his parents), they found a match. Finally, the deadly duo was going to be stopped.

Cuff Him

On February 17, 1993, Bernardo was arrested at his home and charged with the Scarborough attacks. He was a main suspect in the Kristen French case, but the authorities didn’t have enough evidence to charge him with her murder.

A photo of Paul Bernardo’s arrest.
Paul Bernardo. Photo by Jim Wilkes/Toronto Star/Getty Images

Still, they had a search warrant to raid Bernardo’s house, which is where they discovered one of their snuff films. The videotape depicted Homolka committing indecent acts on her own sister, Tammy. Shortly before the arrest, Bernardo had beaten Homolka with a flashlight. It turns out, his aggression was directed towards his wife, too.

The Deal With the Devil

Reportedly, the attack partially dislodged one of Homolka’s eyes from its socket. After a visit and her release from the hospital, Homolka didn’t return home. She decided to distance herself from Bernardo, move in with her parents, and hire an attorney.

An image of Karla Homolka with her family sitting in the backseat of a van.
Photo by Peter Power/Toronto Star/Getty Images

Once her husband was identified as the prime suspect in the Scarborough cases, Homolka made a deal with prosecutors. The agreement was later dubbed “the deal with the devil,” and it allowed her to plead guilty to manslaughter and get only 12 years in prison.

Pointing the Finger at Each Other

All she had to do was testify against Bernardo in the Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French cases. Homolka took the deal and claimed that Bernardo abused her and forced her to take part in the crimes. Homolka was nonetheless charged with two counts of manslaughter.

A photo of Karla Homolka handcuffed sitting inside a police car.
Photo by Bernard Weil/Toronto Star/Getty Images

As for Bernardo, her now estranged husband, he was charged with dismemberment, two counts of first-degree murder, kidnapping, and aggravated sexual assault. They were both in custody but were now playing a game of he said, she said. Just as Homolka blamed Bernardo, so did Bernardo blame his wife.

The Videotapes Get Brought Up

Homolka admitted to her lawyer, George Walker, that they recorded the rapes. While she didn’t hand them over, she did explain what and who was on them. She hoped that it would help her case. She was already linked to the murders, but the police wouldn’t make as strong a case against Bernardo without seeing the tapes.

A photo of Karla Homolka on her way to court.
Photo by Peter Power/Toronto Star/Getty Images

For a month, both Bernardo and Homolka did their best to cooperate with authorities by blaming the other, hoping it would reduce their sentences. Bernardo led police to the six videotapes he was hiding in his house.

The Tapes Were Later Destroyed

Homolka showed detectives where they could locate DNA that would prove that both Leslie and Kristen had been in their house. The tapes were incriminating for both Homolka and Bernardo, but Homolka was the one who had her plea deal in writing

Protesters gather outside the courthouse to manifest against Paul and Karla.
Photo by Peter Power/Toronto Star/Getty Images

Although the tapes showed her helping Bernardo rape and torture the girls, she managed to place the blame on Bernardo. The tapes were kept secret and were destroyed after the trial (the horrific contents served no purpose after the sentencing).

Getting the Public to Believe Her

Once Homolka’s “deal with the devil” was made, the next phase of the case began, and with it, the media frenzy. The media was obsessed with the shocking couple and their heinous crimes. All the while, attorney Walker tried to clean up Homolka’s image.

A dated image of Karla Homolka.
Photo by Tony Bock/Toronto Star/Getty Images

He was trying to give them at least a chance of turning her into a credible witness against the psychopathic husband that “made her do it.” in June 1993, Homolka found herself in court. A publication ban prevented the public from attending the proceedings.

The American Press Gets the Dirt

The Canadian press was banned, but the American press managed to get their hands on some details of the trial, including Homolka’s testimony. People were illegally bringing newspapers from the US over the border into Canada.

An image from a newspaper showing Karla arriving at court.
Photo by Jim Rankin/Toronto Star/Getty Images

When Homolka’s trial took place, which came before Bernardo’s, it was during the internet’s infancy. Still, people used the new technology to share details about the trial on message boards. In 1995, it was Bernardo’s turn to face the courts. A year prior, he and Homolka finalized their divorce.

His Attorney Hid Evidence

Before Bernardo’s trial, his attorney Ken Murray allegedly went to Bernardo’s home and removed several videotapes that were hidden in the bathroom ceiling. But before the trial began, Murray resigned and gave the tapes to Bernardo’s new attorney, John Rosen, who then handed the evidence over to the authorities.

A picture of Karla Homolka outside court.
Karla Homolka. Source: Pinterest

There had also been a fourth victim, an anonymous Jane Doe, seen on the tapes. Homolka got her end of the deal – 12 years with the possibility of parole. She maintained her case, that she was forced to do it.

Prison Love Affairs

Bernardo received a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Although the tapes were destroyed, details of their content were leaked to the press, which led to a public outcry about Homolka’s shortened 12-year-sentence.

An image of Bernardo arriving at court.
Paul Bernardo. Photo by Jim RankinvToronto Star/Getty Images

Nonetheless, Homolka’s sentence remained unchanged. She reportedly engaged in various affairs while behind bars, including writing sappy love letters that sounded like a 12-year-old wrote them. Apart from spending her time writing love letters, she earned a degree in psychology (yes, while in prison).

Homolka: Not a Psychopath

During her time in a Federal Prison, psychiatrists speculated on whether she had an undiagnosed disorder, but they couldn’t reach a consensus. They noted how she could master presenting a different face to whomever she met. It was speculated that she might be a psychopath.

An image of the Homolka’s arriving at court.
Photo by Jim Rankin/Toronto Star/Getty Images

A psychiatrist examined Homolka before she was eventually released from prison and testified that she was not a psychopath nor a sexual deviant. In fact, she scored a 5 out of 40 on the checklist, meaning she does not lack empathy or a conscience.

Bernardo: Definitely a Psychopath

Bernardo, on the other hand, scored much higher on the same psychopathy checklist. After his arrest, experts noted his sadistic behaviors and tendencies. His score on the psychopathy test was between 30 and 35 (out of 40).

A picture of Paul Bernardo entering a police car.
Paul Bernardo. Photo by Dick Loek/Toronto Star/Getty Images

As with all psychopaths, the signs were there from an early age in Bernardo’s life. For most of his childhood, he believed his father was Ken Bernardo. Only as a teenager, his mother, Marilyn, told him the truth – that after she married Ken, she had an affair with her old boyfriend. That man was Bernardo’s biological father.

Developing a Hatred for Women

Although Ken was aware of the affair and the fact that he wasn’t Paul’s actual father, he still agreed to put his name on the boy’s birth certificate and raise him as his own. Bernardo, however, wasn’t so open-minded. Upon learning his mother’s secret, he developed a deep hatred for her.

A portrait of Paul Bernardo.
Paul Bernardo. Photo by Keith Beaty/Toronto Star/Getty Images

He was said to have mocked and ridiculed her for it. Now, Ken may have taken the boy in as his own, but he himself was a deviant. Ken was caught peering into the homes of women in the neighborhood.

Like Father, Like Son

He allegedly molested Bernardo’s older sister, Debbie, who was Ken’s biological daughter. In 1993, once Bernardo was already a rapist himself, Ken was arrested and convicted him of sexual offenses. As for Bernardo, he is still serving his prison sentence.

An image of Paul Bernardo with his mother and sister.
Paul Bernardo’s family. Source: Pinterest

In 2015, he became eligible for day parole, a conditional release that would allow him to participate in activities in the community. But Bernardo was denied day parole multiple times. In 2018, he was denied both day and full parole. He is likely to rot and die in prison.

Homolka Gets Out and Changes Her Name

In 2005, Homolka was released from prison, and she even went on TV to be in an interview shortly after. She ended up marrying the brother of her former attorney, and the couple have three children together.

A still of Karla Homolka during an interview.
Karla Homolka. Source: YouTube

She changed her name to Leanne Bordelais Teale and for a while in the 2010s, she was living with her husband on the Island of Guadeloupe in the Caribbean. Eventually, they returned to Canada and started living in Quebec. Here’s the thing: the conditions of her release stipulated she should have no contact with anyone under 16 and must report her whereabouts to the police.

Does She Deserve a Second Chance?

Why, then, is she volunteering her time with children? Reportedly, once she moved to Quebec, all the restrictions were lifted. She is now a completely free woman. What that means – and what her community has come to fear – is that she is allowed to work with children and teenagers.

A video still of Karla Homolka with two kids.
Karla Homolka. Source: YouTube

The public has voiced its opinion – people want to know what she’s doing. A poll of 9,500 Canadian voters showed that 63% think the public should be made aware of her location. There’s a debate, though. The opposing argument is that Homolka served her time and deserves a second chance. She’s now in her 50s, a mother of three, and seemingly wants to move on. Does she deserve to? That’s the question…