MONTREAL – One of Canada's most notorious female criminals says she's going to live in Quebec now that she's been released from prison.
Karla Homolka (search), 35, was secretly spirited from prison Monday after serving 12 years for the rapes, torture and murders of three teenage girls, including her younger sister.
Homolka 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, drawing the ire of Canadians.
"I don't want to be hunted down," Homolka told RDI, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation'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 she's "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.
Homolka said she went directly from the prison to the television studio. She said she decided to give the interview after consulting with her lawyer. She plans on living in Quebec and acknowledged those in the French-speaking province know less about the horrific details of her case.
"It's certain that the mood in Quebec is not like the mood in Ontario. I have a support network here," Homolka said.
Her lawyers and father have said for months that she intended to resettle in Montreal, having learned French during her 12 years in a Quebec prison.
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.
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 (search) and Leslie Mahaffy (search).
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.
"What I did was terrible and I was in a situation where I was unable to see clearly, where I was unable to ask for help, where I was completely overwhelmed in my life and I regret it enormously because now I know I had the power to stop all that," Homolka said.
Homolka said she didn't leave Bernardo because she was young and afraid of being abandoned.
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.
In return for her 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.
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 (search) 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."
Earlier Monday, one of her attorneys, Christian Lachance, told Quebec Superior Court Judge Maurice Lagace that 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. 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.