It’s been two years since Tammy Arishenkoff had to face the man who killed her childhood friends and make a plea to keep him behind bars.
Under better circumstances that would be just enough time to let the memory of David Ennis explaining how he molested and tortured Janet Johnson before killing her and her family, fade into memory.
Instead, Arishenkoff will continue to dredge up that and other painful memories so she can muster the energy for the newest bid to keep him behind bars.
The National Parole Board is set to once again review whether Ennis, who was known as David Shearing in 1982 when he killed six members of the Johnson Bentley families, is fit for release.
The last time around the board said Ennis still had violent sexual fantasies, hadn’t completed sex offender treatment and was not ready for freedom. This September, if the hearing goes through, Arishenkoff doesn’t expect a significantly different response, but she’s not leaving anything to chance.
“Stranger things have happened when it comes to the justice system in this country,” she said.
The simple fact that relatives of a family murdered in one of the country’s most infamous mass killings have gone to the parole board repeatedly and revisited their most painful memories, she said, highlights another flaw in the system.
“It’s a constant re-victimization. We haven’t had time to breathe. Two years have flown by,” she said.
“The hearing is done, then you know the next one is coming. As it gets closer, it gets more real. Nobody gets to move on from this and it’s just becoming ridiculous. Two times they’ve said no, then this is the third time we ‘re travelling out there for this. This could go on and on and on and on.”
Arishenkoff pointed out that the secondary problem is that the idea of Ennis being released actually causes family of the slain Johnsons a tremendous amount of fear.
“They’re elderly and they want nothing to do with this, and they live in fear that if he comes out then he’s going to come after them,” she said. “It’s what they have lived with for 30 years. “
In August 1982 three generations of the Johnson and Bentley families—George and Edith Bentley of Port Coquitlam, their daughter Jackie Johnson and her husband, Bob, of Westbank and their two daughters, Janet, 13, and Karen, 11,—gathered for a camping trip Wells Gray Provincial Park.
Janet caught Ennis’s eye, so he stalked the family for at least two days before going to the campsite and shooting the four adults, so that he could kidnap the two young girls.
Over the better part of a week Ennis kept the girls hostage and sexually assaulted Janet. He eventually took them into the woods, one at a time, and killed them, also.
He loaded all the bodies into one of the family’s vehicles and torched it in a secluded area of the park. Their remains were discovered on Sept. 13, 1982. It was another 14 months before investigators tracked down Ennis.
To keep Ennis in his Alberta prison cell, Arishenkoff has to collect letters and petitions, and submit them to the board by June 1. She said they’re still not sure if Ennis will attempt to get parole, but they have to have their defence ready, regardless.
“We have a form letter available— just print it off, sign it and send it in,” she said. “Or write your own letter in your own words and send it in. We have the address in Edmonton, and we’re asking as many people as possible to write letters this time around.”
For more information, Arishenkoff has set up a Facebook account named Justice for the Johnson-Bentley Families: Keep Their Killer Behind Bars.
Petitions, letters and more information are all available there.