Saturday, November11, 2000
Kummerfield released on parole
MISSION, B.C. (CP) A man who beat a Regina prostitute to death in a case that outraged women's groups and Saskatchewan's aboriginal community was granted parole Friday, less than four years after his conviction.
Steven Kummerfield, a former university basketball star, was convicted in January 1997 for the beating death of Pamela Jean George and sentenced to 6½ years in prison.
The three-member National Parole Board panel grilled Kummerfield, 24, about the brutal crime for more than an hour.
Kummerfield described a night of heavy drinking with his friend Alex Ternowetsky in April 1995.
When their friends did not want to go to a bar, the pair decided to pick up a prostitute. The first woman they approached refused to go with two men.
A while later George, a single mother of two who worked occasionally as a prostitute, got into the car with Kummerfield. Unknown to George, Ternowetsky was hiding in the trunk.
They demanded oral sex and then Kummerfield dragged George out of the car and began hitting her.
The case gained national attention after the judge reminded jurors George "indeed was a prostitute."
Kummerfield told the parole panel Friday that George was the first woman he had ever hit.
Ternowetsky beat George as well.
As they drove away, Kummerfield said he saw George walking along the side of the road.
Her body was found April 18, 1995, at the side of a gravel road near the Regina airport.
The following day they heard on the radio that a body had been found.
"I really didn't want to believe that that could have been us at all," Kummerfield said.
"I didn't think what we did that night would have ended somebody's life."
George, 28, was beaten so badly her family could not open her casket at the funeral.
The two men were originally charged with first-degree murder but were found guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter.
During their trial, Justice Ted Malone of Court of Queen's Bench, reminded jurors to remember George was a prostitute when they considered whether she consented to sex.
Her consent could have been key to the verdict because if jurors had decided she did not consent, they would have had to find Ternowetsky and Kummerfield guilty of first-degree murder.
Lawrence Joseph, vice-chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, called the verdict a "gross miscarriage of justice.
"Today's announcement of the full parole of this killer is another example as to why we have to take a look at the system," Joseph said.
"I think this points to who is administering the system. Who is it? Is it people with knowledge of the practical realities facing the marginalized people, the poorest of the poor in this country?
"Who's administering this so-called justice system? Just take a look, it's certainly not First Nations people."
Kummerfield paced nervously outside the parole hearing as he waited for the decision.
"The board noted that you speak little about your victim and the suffering that you caused her and the family she left behind," Gus Richardson, a parole board member, said Friday when rendering the board decision.
In their written decision the board called the attack ruthless and noted Kummerfield's previous brushes with the law.
In particular, board members asked him about a violent gay bashing that police questioned him about.
However, "at this point, the board does not see you as an undue risk," Richardson said.
Offenders are usually eligible to seek full parole after serving one-third of their sentence.
However, the judge used a special provision of the Criminal Code to delay their parole eligibility because of the "unusual violence, brutality and degradation" of the crime.
Because the men had been in jail since their arrests in May 1995, and most judges count pre-trial custody as double time, the sentence was considered to be the equivalent of 10 years in prison.
Richardson said the board recognizes the progress Kummerfield has made while incarcerated.
He has participated in violent offender programs, spousal assault programs and substance abuse programs. The former education student has also taken university courses and acted as a tutor while in prison.
He has been on day parole since May, living at a halfway house in Vancouver where he was free to come and go except at night.
When his parole takes effect likely early next week Kummerfield will continue to live in the Vancouver area. He's been working in the construction industry and hopes to go back to university next fall to pursue creative writing.
Under the terms of his parole, he must check in with a parole officer, remain in Canada and can't possess weapons.
Kummerfield was sent to Westmorland Institution in Dorchester, N.B., because it was felt it was too dangerous to incarcerate him in Saskatchewan, where there is a high native population in the prison system.
Ternowetsky was granted day parole in August.
Created: November 12, 2000
Last modified: January 19, 2001
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