Iris McNeil, who was murdered in 1997. (Photo submitted)

Iris McNeil, who was murdered in 1997. (Photo submitted)

Family fights to block killer’s parole request at William Head

James Shortreed seeking temporary unescorted passes

Rick Stiebel/News staff

For the family of Iris McNeil, the agony, anguish, torture and trauma will not diminish with the passing of another parole hearing.

The morning of Dec. 5 will mark the third time members of McNeil’s family will travel from the mainland to attend a parole hearing for James Shortreed, the man who brutally murdered Iris on July 23, 1997, said Crystal Brendzy.

“I had never been to a prison before,” she recalled regarding that first time she attended a hearing for Shortreed with her father, aunt and uncle at William Head Institution in 2012. “We got into a van at the main building and had to drive past all these little townhouses, it was nothing like what I imagined,” she explained. “I will never forget the prisoners looking at us as we drove through the grounds and got out of our vehicle. I remember going into a room where the hearing took place and he was in the room, sitting 12 feet away from us. It was extremely unsettling. That was the first time we all got to share our victim impact statements.”

Shortreed was seeking unescorted temporary absences (UTAs) to attend a 60-day program, a situation which would have resulted in him having unsupervised time, Brendzy said. The application was denied because the parole board decided Shortreed wasn’t ready. “We’re thankful it was denied, but the impact of being in the same room and hearing him speak was so devastating and indescribable,” Brendzy said.

The family attended another hearing in 2016, this time for Shortreed’s application for escorted temporary absences (ETAs). The application was granted, which meant any further requests for the same type of pass would be granted without a hearing, based purely on approval by the warden, Brendzy explained.

“Our position has not changed,” Brendzy said. “This hearing is just as important, if not more important than the one six years ago. My brother Ryan is coming from the Middle East to attend because it’s absolutely that important to him. He would do anything for my aunt. It’s getting harder and harder because we know Shortreed’s getting closer to a hearing for full release, and this UTA hearing is another step in that process. We’re not advised of what he’s asking for until we’re in the room for the hearing. Generally, I manage to stay on top of things, but there are times when it just overwhelms me.”

Lisa Saether, regional manager community relations and training for the Parole Board of Canada’s Pacific region, said although the board cannot comment on specific cases, she could provide some specifics on procedures and policy.

UTAs can be authorized for community service, medical reasons, family contact and personal development, Saether said. Parole board members must examine two criteria when assessing the risk in applications. Those include whether there is undue risk to society, and whether the UTA will facilitate the offender’s reintegration into the community. Some of the examples for granting UTAs include attending improvement programs such as substance abuse programs, technical training programs and counselling sessions. “The board can impose conditions we deem necessary and reasonable to protect society,” Saether said.

Shortreed and Brendzy’s aunt had been married for only a month when he bludgeoned her to death while she slept and stuffed her body in a freezer. Brendzy said no one in the family, including her aunt, knew about Shortreed’s violent criminal history, which included assault, rape and forcible confinement. “My aunt was not his first and only victim,” she stressed. “I don’t believe she would be his last if he’s granted UTAs.

“The emotional and physical toll starts with the letter notifying us of the hearing, revising our victim impact statements, communicating with the parole board, making arrangements for the trip. For myself, I have a responsibility to stand up or what’s right and protect my family and the women in Victoria.”

At least the family won’t have to drive past prisoners staring at them again this time because their request to have the hearing held in the main building at the front of William Head has been granted. “I understand that many other families have expressed their concern with that as well,” she added.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

rick.stiebel@goldstreamgazette.com

William Head Institution

Just Posted

This conceptual rendering shows revisions to the proposed warehouse in Sidney on land under the authority of the Victoria Airport Authority. York Realty, which plans to build, then lease the building, said significant changes to the the massing and height of the building respond to community feedback. Additional feedback can be submitted until June 30. (Screencap/York Realty)
Sidney warehouse proposal lands Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce endorsement

Public has until June 30 to submit additional comments after significant modifications

An eastern cottontail rabbit on the UVic campus. (Evert Lindquist/News Staff)
Wild rabbits persist at the University of Victoria

Feral rabbits are still absent, but another non-native species has arrived on campus

Staff will be reviewing public feedback from second-stage designs for cycling infrastructure in James Bay, part of the City of Victoria’s 32-kilometre network. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria sends James Bay bike lanes choice to next phase

Design modifications based on community input to be delivered to council this summer

Eric White’s roadside farm stand in Metchosin sits stocked with produce. (Photo courtesy of Eric White)
Fledgling Metchosin farmer frustrated by thefts from stand

Eric White said every dollar made at the roadside helps sustain his farm

Greater father involvement in the home leads to improved childhood development and increased marital satisfaction, says expert. (Black Press Media file photo)
University of Victoria researcher finds lack of father involvement a drag on gender equality

Working women still taking on most child and household duties in Canada

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: When was the last time you visited the mainland?

The films are again lighting the screens at local theatres, the wine… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of June 15

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

The Co-op gas station at Whiskey Creek is burning after a camper van exploded while refueling just before 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)
Exploding camper van torches Highway 4 gas station between Qualicum Beach and Port Alberni

Highway traffic blocked after Whiskey Creek gas station erupts into flames

Helen Austin performing with Trent Freeman at the 2018 Vancouver Island MusicFest. Austin is one of the many performers listed for the 2021 event.
Vancouver Island MusicFest goes virtual for 2021

Black Press to stream 25 hours of programming July 9-11

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

Most Read