Saul Betesh, who’s spent four decades behind bars for the high-profile 1977 killing of a Toronto shoeshine boy, has joined a matchmaking website that helps lonesome prisoners find companionship beyond the jailhouse walls.
Betesh, convicted of first-degree murder in the sex slaying of 12-year-old Emanuel Jacques, has submitted his profile to a website called Canadian Inmates Connect Inc.
He writes in his own words that he hopes to correspond with both women and men.
In the blurb, which was posted Sunday, he describes himself as a “druid bard” who enjoys playing role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons, making art with stained glass, sewing quilts for charity, watching science fiction and working in the prison greenhouse.
“I also play chess but I am not that great,” writes Betesh.
“In closing, I won’t lie to you. My crime was bad, but with treatment and a bit more time, I feel I can once again become a productive member of society.
“I will answer all letters, male or female, that are respectful, the others I will trash. I will not write anybody under the age of 20. I hope to hear from you soon.”
The profile is one of about 200 on the website for both male and female inmates â€” many of whom are locked up for violent crimes. Their profiles are written in their own words.
Most prisoners on the site are searching for love. But some, like Betesh, only appear to be seeking pen pals.
Betesh writes that he’s “67 years young,” even though he also says he was born July 20, 1950, which would actually make him 66.
He also states his release date is “unknown.”
Melissa Fazzina, the website’s creator, said she received Betesh’s application and his $35 fee for the website in the mail last week.
She doesn’t discriminate against inmates who want to post their profiles based on their crimes.
“The same goes for Saul Betesh,” Fazzina said in an interview.
“I have no problem putting his profile up there. I just believe that everybody should tell the truth.”
Betesh, who also submitted a photo of himself, wrote that he was doing time for first-degree murder. His current address is the Pacific Institution in Abbotsford, B.C.
“I’m a bit overweight, but that can be explained by eating all the great prison food for the last 41 years,” wrote Betesh, who was found guilty in March 1978 for a killing that stunned Toronto.
In the summer of 1977, Jacques was drowned after being sexually assaulted in an apartment. The boy’s body was found on the roof of a Yonge Street body-rub parlour.
Betesh told police in a statement that he took Jacques to the apartment to pose for photographs. He said he and Robert Wayne Kribs, who would plead guilty to first-degree murder, repeatedly assaulted Jacques.
The court also convicted Josef Woods of second-degree murder in the slaying.
Fazzina, who started Canadian Inmates Connect around six years ago, said Betesh actually played an indirect role in her decision to start the website.
The idea to create the website came after she read a 2011 Toronto Sun story about how Betesh had joined a similar site based in the United States.
She thought she could make money, but she quickly realized there wasn’t much to be made.
Fazzina kept the website going anyway because she says it has helped many prisoners â€” and in the process she has become a public advocate for convicts seeking a second chance.
Interested correspondents must communicate with inmates via snail mail since prisoners don’t have Internet access.
She said the website’s popularity began to expand considerably among inmates in 2015 after it featured the profile of killer Luka Rocco Magnotta.
Magnotta was convicted of several crimes, including first-degree murder, for the 2012 Montreal killing and dismemberment of university student Jun Lin.
The porn actor, whose gruesome crimes seized the attention of people around the world, posted a profile stating that he was searching for his “prince charming.”
Several weeks after Magnotta’s profile went up, Fazzina said she received a letter from him saying he had found what he “was looking for.”
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Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press