More than two decades after he was convicted of kidnapping and murdering teenagers Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy, Paul Bernardo will leave his segregated cell and be back in an Ontario courtroom to stand trial on a weapons charge this fall.
Bernardo, who also confessed to being the Scarborough rapist, made a brief video appearance in a superior court in Napanee Friday morning. He’s accused of possession of a dangerous weapon — a homemade shank fashioned from a screw and pen — inside Millhaven Institution, where he’s serving a life sentence.
Court documents note the weapon was found on Feb. 9.
After an hour-long delay due to a technical glitch, and with Judge Geoffrey Griffin on the verge of adjourning, Bernardo suddenly appeared on the courtroom’s television screen, sitting alone in a small room inside the maximum security facility, wearing a blue T-shirt.
When asked how long he had been waiting, Bernardo flashed a toothy grin and said “about an hour.”
Griffin then proposed an Oct. 26 trial date, but Bernardo asked for an earlier date, saying he wanted the matter settled before he attends a parole hearing sometime later that month.
Griffin then proposed Oct. 5, ordering Bernardo to attend the Napanee court in person. Crown lawyer Richard Floyd and Mark Snider, duty counsel for Bernardo, agreed on the date.
When the judge asked Bernardo if the date was acceptable, he nodded, and the brief, but long-delayed video appearance concluded.
It’s one of the few times Bernardo, 53, has been seen since his 1995 murder convictions. His physical appearance has changed very little over the years, and he used his words sparingly, nodding several times as Griffin asked him questions about the impending trial date.
Bernardo became eligible for day parole in 2015, and he all but confirmed he would be seeking it sometime in October.
His designation as a dangerous offender makes that unlikely and Tim Danson, longtime lawyer for the French and Mahaffy families, previously noted his chances are “between zero and nil.”
One of the most reviled criminals in Canadian history, Bernardo was arrested in 1993 and convicted two years later of killing Mahaffy, 14, and French, 15.
He was later convicted of manslaughter in the death of Tammy Homolka, the younger sister of his ex-wife and co-accused Karla Homolka.
Homolka testified against Bernardo as part of a so-called “deal with the devil” and served 12 years for manslaughter in the deaths of French and Mahaffy.
She was released in 2005.