Jury Convicts Bernardo of Murdering Two Canadian Teen-Agers
TORONTO (AP) _ A jury convicted Paul Bernardo of first-degree murder today in the sex slayings of two teen-age girls, bringing to a close the sensational murder trial that has riveted Canadians this summer.
After deliberating for seven hours, the eight men and four women jurors also found him guilty of kidnapping, forcible confinement, aggravated sexual assault and committing an indignity to a body.
Bernardo received concurrent life sentences on the first-degree murder charges. Sentencing on the other charges will be discussed at a hearing Sept. 15, where lawyers will also review dozens of rape charges against Bernardo relating to attacks in Scarborough, Ontario.
Defense lawyer John Rosen said he will recommend that his client appeal the ruling.
Bernardo admitted that he and his then-wife, Karla Homolka, abducted Leslie Mahaffy, 14, and Kristen French, 15, during separate episodes in 1991 and 1992 and abused them sexually for days while videotaping the acts.
But he testified that he was not present when either girl died, and his lawyer blamed the deaths on Homolka.
The victims’ mothers clasped hands today as they waited for jurors to file into the packed courtroom. Relatives of the teens then burst into tears as the jury foreman said ``guilty″ to each of the nine counts.
Bernardo looked at the foreman without expression as the verdicts were announced. Many of the jurors stared back at Bernardo, a 33-year-old former bookkeeper.
The decision came after a four-month trial in which jurors endured some of the most gruesome, explicit evidence ever presented in a Canadian courtroom. Videotapes depicting Bernardo raping, degrading and humiliating French and Mahaffy were played repeatedly.
Courtroom spectators could hear, but not see, the tapes. Some of those who were in court daily took to covering their ears to block out the girls’ anguished screams.
Mahaffy’s concrete-encased body parts were dumped in a lake near St. Catharines, Ontario. French’s nude body was left in a wooded area near the lake 10 months later.
Homolka, 25, struck a deal with the government to testify against Bernardo and plead guilty to manslaughter in the slayings. She is serving a 12-year prison term.
She testified that Bernardo strangled the girls with an electrical cord.
Homolka’s plea bargain also grants her immunity in the case of her sister, Tammy, 15, who choked to death on her own vomit Christmas Eve 1990 after the couple drugged and sexually assaulted her.
Homolka, who maintained she was battered into submission, testified Bernardo used her participation in Tammy’s death to blackmail her into helping fulfill his depraved sexual fantasies with other girls.
Her plea-bargain agreement _ which was not revealed publicly until the first day of the Bernardo trial _ became a central part of proceedings. Rosen, Bernardo’s defense lawyer, contended Homolka misrepresented her role in the deaths of Mahaffy and French to protect herself.
Some Ontario politicians have called on the government to review the agreement, although it’s not clear what could be done since the deal was sanctioned by the judge who convicted Homolka.