MONTREAL – Canada's most notorious female inmate was secretly spirited from prison on Monday after serving 12 years for the rapes, torture and murders of three teenage girls, including her younger sister.
Karla Homolka (search), 35, received the relatively light sentence in return for her testimony against her ex-husband Paul Bernardo (search). Homolka told the court and psychiatrists she was a battered wife who took part in the rapes and murders to protect herself and her family.
Months after prosecutors made the deal, however, Bernardo's attorneys handed over homemade videotapes by the couple that indicated Homolka was a willing participant.
"I don't want to be hunted down," Homolka told RDI (search), the CBC's French language news network, after her release. "I don't want people to think I am dangerous and I'm going to do something to their children."
Speaking in slightly accented French, Homolka said in the interview, that "often I cry."
"I'm unable to forgive myself. I think of what I've done and then often I think I don't deserve to be happy because of this," said Homolka, who appeared drawn and tired.
Officials at the station confirmed that the interview with Homolka took place at its Montreal studio just hours after she left federal custody.
Michele Pilon-Santilli, a spokeswoman for the correctional service, confirmed the release of Homolka — who has changed her name to Karla Teale — but would not say where she was headed.
As Homolka was being released, her lawyers were in court seeking a ban against the media on covering her release and subsequent whereabouts.
Her lawyers and father have said she intended to resettle in Montreal, having learned French during her 12 years in a Quebec prison. Some believe she will first stay at the Elizabeth Fry Society halfway house for female inmates in Montreal, as she has received counseling and pledges of support from the private home for women.
Homolka became the symbol of evil in Canada in 1993 when she was convicted of manslaughter for her role in the kidnappings, rapes, sexual torture and murders of Ontario teenagers Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy. She was also convicted in the 1990 death of her 15-year-old sister, Tammy, who died choking on her own vomit on Christmas Eve after Homolka held a drug-soaked cloth over her mouth while both she and her husband raped her.
Tim Danson, the lawyer representing the French and Mahaffy families, told The Associated Press his clients were stunned that Homolka was free.
"They thought that they had made the necessary mental and emotional adjustments to get ready for today, but when I gave them word that she'd been released, there was just stunned, painful silence," Danson said in Toronto, the provincial capital of Ontario.
"They are feeling just this huge, huge sense of loss and a sense of enormous injustice for what's happened."
In return for her relatively light sentence, Homolka testified against Bernardo, a Toronto bookkeeper serving a life term for two counts of first-degree murder.
One of the videos released months later indicated Homolka had offered up Tammy as a Christmas gift to Bernardo in 1990; it showed Homolka performing oral sex on her unconscious sister after slipping sleeping pills in her alcohol. Tammy died choking on her own vomit.
In the following two years, the couple kidnapped and videotaped the rapes and beatings of 15-year-old Kristen, then 14-year-old Leslie, who was strangled by Bernardo with an electrical cord while the teenager held a teddy bear Homolka had given her for comfort.
By the time the videotapes were revealed, Homolka's plea bargain had been sealed. But Canadians were outraged that she would be released in 12 years.
"People think she's cheated the system," said Jack Jadwab, executive director of the Association of Canadian Studies in Montreal. "A violent crime like this, publicized the way it is, represents to many Canadians a bit of a stain on our reputation for being a nonviolent society."
As her release loomed, Ontario prosecutors went back to court last month to successfully obtain restrictions on her movement and activities once she was free.
A judge ruled Homolka still posed a potential danger to society and ordered her to immediately report to police upon her release; banned her from contacting Bernardo or the families of their victims; said she must not come into contact with other violent offenders; must continue therapy and submit DNA samples to authorities.
Homolka intends to appeal, calling the restrictions a violation of her plea bargain.
Earlier Monday, one of her attorneys, Christian Lachance, told Quebec Superior Court Judge Maurice Lagace that his client was too afraid to testify at the hearing to consider a media blackout. Because Homolka's safety could not be assured by police, he said the media must be prevented from reporting her whereabouts to protect her from threats against her life, mostly by Internet bloggers.
Another judge last week rejected a similar plea, saying it violated press freedoms.
Lagace ruled Monday that Homolka should defend her point of view the week of July 25, but it was not immediately clear whether she would appear in court.
Christian Leblanc, a lawyer representing the media, said Homolka is a public figure and the media has the right and an obligation to report on her whereabouts and activities.