When violent rapist William Shrubsall received a rare indeterminate prison sentence in 2001, a Nova Scotia judge ruled that if he ever regained his freedom, the likely result would be more dead, injured and psychologically scarred women.
There was no “realistic prospect of controlling the threat of dangerousness” from his re-entry into society, reads the ruling.
Only 18 years later, despite warnings from his victims, his prosecutor and even the Correctional Service of Canada, Shrubsall has been granted full parole and is to be deported to the United States.
“I am fearful that he will be free again and be given yet another opportunity to victimize women. I am not alone in this fear,” one of his victims told the National Post.
Paul Carver, the Nova Scotia prosecutor who sought the dangerous offender status for Shrubsall, was similarly wary. “I have seen and heard nothing over the last 18 years that suggests he has changed his behaviour,” Carver told the Buffalo News.
Shrubsall’s release highlights the inherent weakness of dangerous offender status, the only mechanism Canada has to keep a violent offender indefinitely behind bars for public safety reasons.
You meant to hurt as much as you were hurting
Even if dangerous offender status is obtained, however, the offender is free to seek parole after seven years and then every two years thereafter. There is also no guarantee that dangerous offenders will not be given prison leaves or moved to minimum-security facilities.
Shrubsall, who legally changed his name in prison to Ethan Simon Templar MacLeod, has been denied parole four times: in 2012, 2014, and 2016, with an appeal denied in 2017.
Then in November, against the advice of the Correctional service, the Parole Board of Canada granted him parole. It said the now 47-year-old sex offender had completed programs to reduce his violence, had attended regular psychological counselling and was facing years of incarceration back in the U.S.
The board attempts to explain his crimes as an outgrowth of inner pain.
“You were looking for care and affection,” it reads. “When you felt rejection you meant to hurt as much as you were hurting.”
It added, “you were carrying a lot of rage that made you snap at times.”
Raised in Niagara Falls, N.Y., Shrubsall missed his 1988 high school graduation because he was in police custody for killing his mother with a baseball bat the night before. He told his then girlfriend that the killing was “no big thing” and initially tried to pin it on others. He was convicted of the lesser offence of manslaughter because his mother had allegedly been physically and sexually abusive.
In 1996, to escape two sexual assault charges he faked his death and fled across the border, where he embarked on a horrific string of crimes against Canadian women.
I am fearful that he will be free again and be given yet another opportunity to victimize women. I am not alone in this fear
In February 1998, he entered a Halifax knitting shop with a baseball bat and beat the 24-year-old clerk into a coma, requiring her skull to be reconstructed with 12 metal plates and 50 screws.
Three months later, he attacked a 19-year-old woman as she walked home, repeatedly smashing her face into an asphalt driveway. “While she laid screaming and bleeding, you tore off her pants and masturbated,” reads his 2014 parole denial.
A month later, he brought a woman back to his room, only to choke her into unconsciousness when she rebuffed his advances. Neighbours stopped the attack.
He also bilked churches of money, stalked former girlfriends and attempted to enroll in a Halifax high school at the age of 25.
Each time parole was denied, the board painted a picture of a man whose deep psychiatric problems made him unable to grasp the gravity of his crimes. His high intelligence also made him particularly adept at committing those crimes without getting caught. “You are noted to be able to camouflage your deviant behaviours,” read one parole denial.
Even in granting him parole, board members were confused by a statement in which Shrubsall says he takes care to remember the harm he has caused. “Your crimes were so serious that you should carry with you at all times the horror of what you did,” it read.
The Correctional Service of Canada has consistently recommended against parole. In its submission to the board, the agency warned that his risk of sexually assaulting again remains “high” and his potential to reintegrate into society is “low.”
In prison, he has been caught distributing pornography and possessing a document that appeared to rate the members of a college volunteer group by their appearance. He also had “unauthorized communications and items delivered to a female inmate” and has “stalking issues around female correctional staff.”
The parole board found Shrubsall is still an “undue risk” to society, but trusted that this would change after his U.S. prison sentence of between two-and-one-third to seven years. “You face many more years of incarceration … which will give you the benefit to continue to better yourself in a secured environment,” it wrote.
“There is no explanation for that logic. None,” prosecutor Carver told The Canadian Press. “This is the triumph of hope over reason.”