A Kelowna woman sentenced to life in prison for the 1998 killing and dismemberment of her husband has been granted escorted release from prison to attend weekly church services.
The Parole Board of Canada approved Ronda Petra Black’s application for escorted temporary absences for the purpose of personal development at an April 21 hearing. The aim, said the report, is to allow the now 48-year-old to participate in specific treatment activities—such as church— so she will be better able to reintegrate into the community as a law abiding citizen.
At the same hearing Black, who is serving a sentence of life in prison for the second degree murder of husband Keith Black in 2007, was denied escorted and unescorted temporary absences to visit family and day parole.
The parole board outlined its decision in a document released Wednesday.
“You (Black) took an innocent man’s life in a brutal and violent manner. You then disrespected the victim further by hiding the body and keeping his family members ignorant of his death. Only after years and after an intense police investigation, were you forthcoming about your role in the murder,” reads the report.
“You continue to blame the victim in some manner. By so doing, you have not yet taken full responsibility for the murder. You have demonstrated that you can be highly susceptible to the influence of negative associations. You admit that your criminal behaviour can extend beyond the index offence. At today’s hearing you continued to explain that you were unable to consider the consequences of your murderous actions. However, in the next breath, you explained how you had given consideration to avoiding arrest and detection. The board found these two points to be inconsistent.”
The parole board also pointed out that Black had consistently blamed a dead family member,
Black pleaded guilty to the 1998 second degree murder of her husband in 2007, although a Mr. Big investigation into the crime got underway three years after his disappearance.
Speaking to who she believed to be members of an organized crime organization, she eventually claimed she had killed her husband to save herself. She said Keith had put out a contract on her life, and hired mutual friend “Crazy” Howard Steadman to do the job.
Steadman, Ronda said, told her about the plan and on July 20, 1998, when her husband went to the basement to have a nap, she stabbed him in the jugular with a hunting knife.
She wrapped the body in a tarp, dragged it upstairs and into her car—while their infant son watched — and drove it to Steadman’s home in Exshaw, Alta.
Steadman proceeded to cut off Keith’s head and hands and they together concealed the body near Canmore. In 1999 a hiker discovered Keith’s skull, although police could not identify it until Steadman exposed the location of the remains in June 2003.
The pair were arrested soon after that and Steadman was later convicted of accessory to murder after the fact. He tried to appeal the conviction, but his application was denied.
Although the parole board did take issue with some of Black’s behaviour since her arrest—such as a propensity to blame the victim — they also pointed out that she had a package of certificates and letters that indicated she had participated in a number of employment opportunities and volunteer work, and had demonstrated positive behaviour while incarcerated.
That behaviour was allowed her to successfully cascade from maximum security to minimum security, and eventually into escorted releases.
Her interactions with staff and other inmates are respectful and she has not received any institutional charges or been involved in any incidents.