Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Paul Bernardo & Karla Homolka

Sex Slaves

Sketch of Bernardo in court
Sketch of Bernardo in court

It seemed like an odd way for the prosecutor to treat his star witness, however Houlahan explained that the dialog in the videos had been scripted by Bernardo and was a good example of how he forced his will on Karla.

As more of these videotapes of Leslie, Kristen and Jane were shown, the jury was provided with indisputable and powerful evidence of Paul Bernardo's sexual depravity. As if that were not enough, Karla was called to the stand to elaborate on what the jurors had just seen and heard.

What she described in her relationship with Paul was an escalating theme of sexual degradation similar to what Paul had begun with other girlfriends before he met Karla. In Karla, the willing victim, the degradation knew no boundaries. He made her wear a dog's "choke" collar; he inserted a wine bottle into her vagina; and he almost strangled her to death with a wire cord to satisfy his sadistic fantasies. Paul told her that his choke fantasy was "important to him and it wouldn't hurt anybody." He told her that she was nothing without him and he would call her names, like slut, bitch, and cunt.

Karla with black eyes
Karla with black eyes

When the defense had its turn in the courtroom, John Rosen attacked Karla's credibility. His goal was to show that she was not the victim she portrayed herself to be, but a willing participant in the couple's rape and murder spree.

He was, at least, successful in showing Karla to be a morally vacuous woman with no remorse for her part in these crimes. In particular, Kristen's murder had to be committed at a particular time so that Karla and Paul could spend Easter dinner with Karla's parents. Immediately after Kristen was strangled, Karla left to blow dry her hair. If it was not immediately clear at the trial, it became clear shortly after, that Karla had cleverly manipulated the circumstances of her cooperation with the government to engineer one of the worst deals that the Canadian government had ever made with a criminal witness.

Regardless of Karla's degree of guilt or innocence and the deal she had made with the authorities, it did not save Bernardo from the outrage that he kindled in the minds of the jurors. On September 1, 1995, Bernardo was convicted on all the charges against him regarding the kidnappings, rapes and murders of Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French. He also faced trials in the death of Tammy Homolka and the serial rapes in Scarborough. Under Canadian law, Bernardo can apply for parole after 25 years in prison, although it is unlikely that he would be successful in any parole bid.


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