The man who murdered a family of six near Wells Gray Provincial Park three decades ago has been denied parole for the third time since being convicted.
David Ennis, formerly David Shearing, has been serving a life sentence for the murder of the Johnson-Bentley family in 1982. Ennis stalked the family while they were on a camping trip about 120 kilometres north of Kamloops.
After impact statements were heard from friends and relatives of the late family, members of the Parole Board of Canada began to make a risk assessment, asking Ennis about his past to determine if he would be at risk to re-offend.
In the end, the board found that while Ennis has made many positive strides in his life in incarceration, they didn’t think he was ready for release.
Ennis is in Bowden Institution in central Alberta.
Parole board member Delaine Dew thanked all those who participated by giving their impact statements, noting the board takes those statements, including ones previously submitted, into account before granting or denying parole.
“The petitions, even historical petitions, we take all those into account when we make this decision,” she said.
“And it’s very clear to us when we read all those decision and we hear from you today that the loss of your loved ones is still so raw, it’s so real and that intergenerational trauma that was spoken to is very apparent.
In addressing Ennis, Dew said:
“Mr. Ennis, you’re serving a life sentence, but the victims, the community, they’re serving an indeterminate sentence … there are some positives in your case. You have been working on communication, you’re opening up. You’re engaged in your correctional plan, you’re completing programming that is asked of you. You understand that you’re a work in progress … but there are overwhelming negative aspects in your case … the most appropriate place for you to make gains is in the safety and security of the institute.”
Ennis shot grandparents George and Edith Bentley, their daughter Jackie and her husband Bob Johnson.
He kept the Johnsons’ daughters — Janet, 13, and Karen, 11 — alive for almost a week and sexually assaulted them before taking them into the woods, one at a time, and killing them.
He then put all six bodies into the family car and set it on fire.
Ennis, now 62, pleaded guilty in 1984 to six counts of second-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. The judge at the time described the murders as “a cold-blooded and senseless execution of six defenceless and innocent people.”
This marks the fourth time Ennis has applied for parole, having previously applied in 2008, 2012, and 2014.