Emmanuel Bedard is one mean bastard.
While in jail for some petty crimes, he beat another inmate to death with a coffee mug full of wet toilet paper. He stomped on his head over and over to make sure he wouldn’t get back up.
I was in the Peterborough courtroom when a judge decided to try him as a dangerous offender.
He wasn’t very old. His hair and sunken cheeks made him look like Morrissey, or maybe a minor character from the Outsiders.
The judge passed his verdict, Bedard barely blinked.
He was just a kid. And, he never really stood a chance.
I kind of realized it at the time, but the whole story came into better focus a year later when Karen wrote a series about him for the Ottawa Citizen. The paper didn’t actually run the story, so the Peterborough Examiner did. It was an amazing piece of work, even more so because it pretty much drove her out of the businesss (she works at a non-profit now).
Here’s what she remembers. There is a link to her stories at the very bottom.
You wrote a really deep piece about Emmanuel, how did you get started with that?
I was a cub reporter at the Peterborough Examiner – my first job out of J-school – and there was a riot at the local prison. An inmate was killed. The culprits came to be known as the “Millbrook 9.” One in particular stomped on the dead guy’s head over and over and over again. His name was Emmanuel Bedard and the first time I saw him was in Peterborough court.
Several years later, I was working with the Ottawa Citizen and learned that Bedard was being tried as a dangerous offender. I did some digging, found out he grew up in foster care in the Ottawa area.
His story starts like this: When he was taken from his mother by children’s aid, Bedard was a year old. He was severely malnourished and developmentally delayed. By the time he was six, he had bounced through 17 foster homes. When he was 12, he was removed from yet another foster home.
And you visited him in jail, right? What was that like?
I visited him a few times in jail. It was like what you see in the movies – the guy in orange talking through the glass wall on the phone. His hands and legs were cuffed. By this time, he was 18. Not a scary dude by any stretch of the imagination. If anything, he was just happy that he actually had a visitor.
He told me he would tell his story and granted me full access to otherwise restricted files through the Children’s Aid Society.
What were your actual impressions of him? Did you like him?
It’s hard to say I liked a cold-blooded killer because that’s what he was. I think he was initially in jail for something petty, but he confessed to killing the guy – and from what I understand, it was like something had snapped and his rage was uncontrollable. Not the kind of guy you want to take home for dinner.
On the other hand, his story was so pathetic. He was a boy who grew up in the system and, I felt, was betrayed by the system. What kind of a chance does a child have when he spends his first six years living in 17 foster homes? It was a really tough life, and things only got worse as he got older.
I didn’t feel like he was meeting me because he wanted to be in the spotlight. I think he just enjoyed having some attention and feeling that his life, his story, might actually mean something to someone.
I don’t think a single person in the world loved that boy.
Do you think he’ll ever get out? Do you ever think about writing?
No, I wouldn’t write him. It’s not the right thing to do. He was starting to call me collect from jail rather frequently – and it’s not my goal in life to be the object of desire for a guy serving a life sentence as a dangerous offender.
I don’t know if he’ll ever get out. I understand that as a dangerous offender, which he was declared, you get to spend the rest of your life in jail.
You said it was the last story you ever wrote for a newspaper – why?
It was the second last story – the last was the disappearance and murder of Ardeth Wood, a young woman in Ottawa. She had been abducted in broad day light on the bike paths. Her body was found hidden behind some bushes. Both were gut wrenching stories that kept me up in the middle of the night and I pretty much had enough.