Opinion Column

Parole system unfair to victims’ families

Leo Knight Prime Time Crime columnist 24 hours (PHOTO SUBMITTED).

By Leo Knight, Law and Order, 24 hours Vancouver



On Aug. 3, 1997, Vancouver police received a call from the RCMP after they arrested a man in a Spuzzum cafe. That man, James Shortreed, had told a waitress in the cafe to call police because he was a wanted man.

He told the Mounties he had killed his wife, Iris McNeil, and put her body in a freezer. VPD attended the address in the 200 block of E. 19 Avenue and, sure enough, Shortreed’s claim was verified.

Shortreed bludgeoned McNeil to death with a hammer while she slept. He also stabbed her multiple times in the chest. He wrapped the customs officer’s body tighter and tighter in duct tape until she was in a small bundle, which he then stuffed in the freezer compartment of the refrigerator.

The senior homicide detective on the scene and the coroner’s body recovery service had to pull and tug, inch by inch, until they could get the body out of the small compartment.

Shortreed and McNeil had only married a month earlier. She loved him and thought she knew him. What she didn’t know was that Shortreed had a history of violence in relationships. In 1991, when his then-wife told him she wanted a separation, he bound her with duct tape and raped her at knifepoint. After his release on bail, he twice more entered her home despite court-imposed conditions — once with a shotgun — and raped her again. He got just three years in prison.

Shortreed was interviewed by forensic psychiatrist Dr. Stanley Semrau after his arrest for the killing of McNeil. Semrau told the court that Shortreed had serious psychological problems, a history of drug abuse and was a high risk to re-offend.

He pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to life with no chance of parole for 13 years. McNeil’s family members were outraged with the light sentence. They are still outraged.

In less than two months, they will be going to Victoria to attend a parole hearing to fight Shortreed’s application. In October of last year, he applied for temporary absences, but was denied. What may have changed in the intervening months is anyone’s guess. But he still gets the opportunity and the family will be put through the emotional wringer again.

In a just world, that would not happen and Shortreed would never again get the opportunity to hurt another woman.

Leo Knight is a former police officer, security expert and host of primetimecrime.com.







Do you think our justice system is too tough?

Reader's comments »

By adding a comment on the site, you accept our terms and conditions