Ken and Barbie killers now: Paul is in prison and Karla lives free

Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka's wedding

Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo, infamously known as the Ken and Barbie killers, were responsible for the rapes and murders of at least three minors in Canada in the early 90s. The pair appeared to revel in their sadism as they recorded the torture and rapes of Tammy Homolka, Leslie Mahaffy, and Kristen French. 

After their arrests, Karla turned on Bernardo, convincing authorities that he manipulated her into committing the crimes. In exchange for her cooperation, Karla got a light 12-year sentence on charges of manslaughter. The court sentenced Paul Bernardo to life imprisonment and declared him a dangerous offender. 

Paul is in prison, and Karla lives free in Quebec with her husband

Karla Homolka and Paul

Paul Bernardo is in prison at Millhaven penitentiary in Ontario, Canada. Bernardo spends most of the day in his cell and is allowed one hour of solitary yard time. Bernardo’s dangerous offender status restricts him from meaningful human interaction. 

Bernardo is eligible for parole but is unlikely to leave prison. Authorities have rejected Paul’s two applications for parole. The presiding judge needed only one hour to reject Paul’s June 2021 petition for parole. 

The convicted murderer complained of ‘stress and anxiety,’ arising from prolonged periods without human contact. Paul told the court that he’d rehabilitated and posed no risk to society. Bernardo blamed his crimes on an urge to ‘punish’ his victims for failing to satisfy him. 

“I’m no longer preoccupied with fantasies,” he claimed. “Without a doubt, I’m low risk. I have fought all deviant sexual behavior for two years.” In his past hearing, Paul claimed that he felt remorse for his actions. 

“What I did was so dreadful,” he said. “I hurt a lot of people. I cry all of the time.” Considering Paul’s crimes and dangerous offender status, it is unlikely that he’ll ever leave prison. 

Karla is doing much better than her ex-husband as she’s now a free woman. She goes by Leanne Teale and lives in Quebec with her husband, Thierry Bordelais, and three children. Karla married Bordelais, her former attorney’s brother, shortly after her July 2005 release from prison. 

Homolka experienced difficulties trying to reintegrate into society. The Canadian public opposed her release and made it challenging for her to settle. One of her bosses alleged that she’d violated the terms of her parole by contacting children and a person with a criminal record. 

The court granted her relief, however, by loosening the restrictions set on her by the lower court. Justice James Brunton allowed Karla to travel freely in Canada and contact whoever she wanted. Judge Brunton’s decision read:

“The possibility that Ms. Teale might reoffend one day cannot be completely eliminated. However, her development over the last 12 years demonstrates, on a balance of probabilities, that this is unlikely to occur. She does not represent a real and imminent danger to commit a personal injury offence.”

The victims’ families object to Paul Bernardo’s parole

Paul Bernardo
Fank Gunn/Canadian Press

Paul Bernardo’s loudest opposers to his potential parole are the victims’ families. During his last parole hearing, Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French’s parents described Paul as a psychopath and sadist who should remain in prison. 

The parole board agreed with that assessment, citing a psychologist’s report diagnosing Paul with several untreatable conditions, including psychopathy, narcissistic personality disorder, and voyeurism. Maureen Gauci, one of the hearing officers, said:

“You’re understanding and insight remains limited. It was evident today that you continue to exhibit behaviors that are counter-productive to the development of insight. You have not shown the risk of offending can be managed in the community.”

Bernardo is unlikely to leave prison, but he will likely keep applying for parole. The law allows Paul to apply for parole every two years, which doesn’t sit well with the victims’ families. 

Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy’s parents lament having to relive the crimes every two years. A 2021 statement from Debbie Mahaffy, Leslie’s mother, reads: 

“Once again, Bernardo’s desires are inflicted on us as he inserts himself into our lives again, forcing his horrors and terrifying memories upon us. What does resting in peace mean when you have to relive the horrors every two or so years for the rest of our lives?”

The victims’ families would prefer to have a period of at least five years between Paul’s parole hearings. It’s uncertain whether authorities will grant their request; nevertheless, the victims’ parents will keep showing up to object to Paul’s parole. “They’re here for their daughters, to have their daughters’ voices heard,” Debbie Mahaffy’s attorney said. 

Karla has unsuccessfully tried to hide her identity from the public

Karla Homolka

Due to the notoriety of her crimes, Karla rarely goes unrecognized in Canada. She lived a relatively private life in the Antilles and the island of Guadeloupe; however, her situation changed when she moved to Canada. 

The residents of Chateauguay opposed her residence in their town, prompting Montreal MP Marc Miller to ‘look into’ the issue. Karla found support in people like Tom Mulcair, who urged people to believe in Karla’s rehabilitation. 

“If you’re ensuring the safety of the kids, beyond our revulsions at the horror of the crime, is there any room for atonement and forgiveness?” Tom asked

Homolka requested protection from authorities, but the Quebec Press Council denied her request to block the media from publishing information about her. The Council allowed the press to publish her whereabouts but not her home address. Its decision read:

“The public had a right to be informed about her new area of residence and the newspaper had editorial freedom to publish this information. Indicating the name of the district where Ms. Homolka lives does not constitute a breach of ethics. As the latter is a public figure whose history has shaken Quebec and Canada, the council considers that her names should not be hidden from the public.”

Karla laments perceived persecution from the public, claiming that she’s also Paul’s victim. During an interview on Radio Canada, Karla pleaded for empathy as she was an impressionable teenager during her and Paul’s crime spree. She said:

“At the time, I was seventeen years old. I lacked knowledge. I feared being abandoned. I was desperate for a relationship. I lacked confidence. There are numerous aspects of myself that I was unaware of at the time but am now aware of.”

Homolka’s husband, Thierry Bordelais, sees Karla’s continued vilification as pointless. “If they [the community’ are worried, all they have to do is move,” he told La Presse. “We’re free, we’re in a free country. Has anything happened over the past 10 years? So why are they worried? I don’t see why they are worried.”