Sunday, November 25, 2001
PROFILES of 5 SHU INMATES
Canada's most dangerous cons
Wearing baggy pants, sneakers and a thin goatee, his appearance suggests a typical young man.
He is not.
At 24, Cory Cameron is considered to be one of Canada's most dangerous criminals. One of the SHU's youngest inmates, he is serving extra time for violent crimes committed behind bars.
Once he took a weight bar to a fellow inmate's head. In another prison attack, his weapon was a deck broom.
"Inside, there are arguments. You've gotta take those things seriously," he says, describing the acts of "self-defence" at the maximum-security Atlantic Institution.
Cameron was serving time in the Renous, N.B., penitentiary for the armed robbery of a Zeller's store. The self-described "black sheep of the family" has a lengthy record for theft, robbery and assault -- a life of crime that he blames on running with the wrong crowd.
"I've had a lot of time to think, and I have a lot of regrets," says Cameron, the father of a boy who will turn 8 next month.
Isolated in the SHU, he passes each day thinking, reading and watching TV. Time is marked by meal deliveries on trays pushed through the thin opening on his cell door.
"It's another prison experience, but it's more regimented, very repetitious," he says. "Every day's the same."
The infamous child-killer who once boasted he was "The Beast of British Columbia" is quietly approaching his senior years, stripped of most privileges and shunned by fellow prisoners in the SHU.
Described by one inmate as "that snake Clifford Olson," the man convicted of sexually assaulting and murdering 11 British Columbia children is reviled as much inside as he is out. Even with the unit's ultra-security measures, Olson is segregated from other inmates who might wish him harm.
Canadian Alliance MP Randy White, his party's Corrections critic, has followed Olson's case closely and he believes the ultra-tight prison unit is the best place for him.
"Listening to the fellow. You know he's not fit for the street, ever," he said. "You could never put him into general population. They'd either kill him or he'd do something to someone else."
In 1982, Olson pleaded guilty to killing eight boys and three girls ranging in age from nine to 18 years old. He led RCMP to their bodies in exchange for $100,000.
Gary Rosenfeldt, whose 16-year-old son Daryn was one of Olson's victims, said the killer constantly harassed victims' families, the media and federal politicians. But since he was moved to the SHU in Quebec several years ago, he has been kept quiet.
"We've hardly heard a peep from him, and that's what we want. We want to be left in peace," says Rosenfeldt, who founded the Ottawa-based lobby group Victims of Violence.
"For some reason, the SHU in Quebec seems to work. He has not been able to rear his ugly head."
Others have suggested alternative methods of dealing with serial killers like Olson. In 1997, Alliance Leader Stockwell Day, who was then Alberta's treasurer, suggested Olson be dealt with by prison justice.
"I am one of those people who say: 'Fix the problem. Put him in the general population.' The moral prisoners will take care of him," Day said.
TOMMY ROSS JR.
Tommy Ross Jr. can't read, but he speaks philosophically about life in the SHU.
Distrustful and paranoid, the American insists that a hostile prison environment only makes a man more aggressive.
"Put someone in a closed confinement, and they're going to adapt," he says, his nose scarred by violence. "Like a dog that's poked by a stick learns to adapt. It's going to bite you."
The 48-year-old native of Sacramento, California was convicted of the 1978 Mother's Day murder of Janice Forbes in Victoria, B.C. He has never admitted guilt for the crime.
"I was just sightseeing," he says from behind bars at the SHU. "They accused me of a murder."
Forbes, a 26-year-old mother of two, was found face down in her apartment, hands tied behind her back. A piece of material was knotted around her right ankle, the other end wrapped around her neck.
Her convicted killer has been transferred to different institutions in B.C., Saskatchewan, Ontario and Alberta, and has spent several stints inside the former SHUs. Ross says he's "been around the block a few times" -- on the inside.
"They said I was too aggressive," he says. "I was in the yard, and someone slipped and fell. When they came to get him, he had five holes in him. But I didn't do it."
His knuckle tattoos read "Love" on one hand and "Hate" on the other. His arms and chest are illustrated with slate-coloured ink, all drawn inside various prisons.
Now on his fourth stint in the SHU, Bernie Ruelland has grown accustomed to life under super-maximum security. That is not to say he has grown to like it.
"The time goes by here, but it's not normal. It's not healthy by no means," he says of this place where he must always watch his back.
The Cape Bretoner's record is long and varied, as is his record of stays in various prisons from east to west. His crimes include armed robbery, assault causing bodily harm and breach of probation. He has spat at cops, assaulted jail guards and escaped custody.
"No one is here in the SHU for being a choir boy," he says. "It's probably the most dangerous place in Canada. This is where they put the guys who are never getting to the street again -- multiple murderers and dangerous offenders. Then they put another guy in, and when he adapts to live like these people do, they condemn him for survival."
Ruelland has tasted just five months of freedom since he was first incarcerated. That includes a brief spell when he escaped and other short periods before he was picked up for another crime. He has tried to help himself through programs on drug and alcohol abuse and anger management.
He stopped a violent offender program because he smashed up the common room half-way through.
"I don't like guards. I don't like the system. But that doesn't mean I should be here," he says.
Once a car salesman outside Ottawa, his name became synonymous with terror in New Brunswick.
A decade ago, Allan Legere, now 53, was found guilty of a mass killing spree that involved the torture, rape and killing of three women and the murder of an elderly Catholic priest. He became known as the "Monster of the Miramichi," the provincial region where he carried out his murderous rampage.
Now securely housed at the SHU, Legere is despised by other inmates who abhor those who have victimized women and children.
The grisly sex slayings of 75-year-old Annie Flam and sisters Donna and Linda Lou Daughney, 45 and 41, as well as the beating death of Rev. James Smith, 69, occurred between May and November 1989.
Legere was loose at the time after escaping prison guards during a visit to a Moncton hospital. He was already serving a life sentence for killing a Miramichi shopkeeper in 1986.
Legere worked as a car salesman in Winchester, south of Ottawa, in the late 1970s, living in a farmhouse in nearby Inkerman. He later returned to his native New Brunswick.
When a jury of six women and five men found him guilty on four counts of murder, Justice David Dickson told them: "I don't usually comment on verdicts ... but let me say this. Don't lose too much sleep over your verdict."
Legere's crime spree during his escape sparked a wave of fear in the area. People who lived alone moved in with family and friends for safety and gun sales increased. Few people went out after dark and Halloween trick-or-treating was cancelled that year.
He managed to escape when he was taken to hospital for treatment of an ear infection. Secured with handcuffs, a body chain and leg shackles, he emerged from a small, private washroom without restraints and waving a homemade knife. Legere was captured seven months later after one of the largest manhunts in Canadian history.