All those neat and tidy and politically correct terms like redemption and rehabilitation and restorative justice evaporated completely last week when I heard that the monster who murdered Samantha Walsh in February of 1990 near Fleur-de-Lys had been given his walking papers, designated by those infallible geniuses on the parole board as a free man.
Michael Lewis was 16 years old when he took 13-year-old Samantha on an ATV to a cabin, tried to have sex with her, and when she resisted, choked her to death.
It was the type of horrific killing that understandably shocked the province and there was hardly a Newfoundland soul not riveted to a news outlet for 17 interminable days as a massive search was undertaken for Samantha while her parents and loved ones prayed there would be a happy outcome.
There’s gall, and there’s the gall of the sociopath, and Lewis certainly fit the bill in the latter category, actually taking an active part in the search for his lost “friend.” You don’t need a PhD in clinical psychology to conclude that Lewis was, at the very least, delusional and, at worse, was thoroughly enjoying the crisis he had created.
All along, as the town cried and prayed, Lewis already knew he had taken Samantha out to the cabin and choked the life out of her in what must have been a slow, torturous, terrifying death, one in which she would have been acutely aware of what was happening.
It’s impossible to fathom the fear she suffered during those last minutes and seconds of her brief life. And Lewis could have stopped at any point.
He knew what he was doing.
He knew he was killing Samantha. Lewis was in the process of eliminating every thought Samantha had ever had, every thought she might ever have and when he had completed his awful deed, ending Samantha’s life at 13, he unceremoniously dumped her in a snow bank. Then he hopped on his ATV and headed back to town. You wouldn’t know but he had been out checking rabbit slips.
The nightmare then began for Samantha’s family, a horror story that was given a brief a sense of closure when her body was finally found. (It was big of Lewis, don’t you think, to finally show the way to the grave.) But it began again, and has continued since, as the Walsh family tried to exist and maintain a sense of sanity, however difficult that has obviously shown itself to be.
Lewis is only 27 and basically has his entire life ahead of him. He’s even got a girlfriend. Well, now, isn’t that just grand?
George Walsh, who wrote a book about the killing of Samantha, died last year, his faith, I’m sure, giving him some hope he would be reunited with his daughter. But Millie Walsh, Samantha’s mother, labours on, trying to explain the inexplicable and graciously giving interviews to the press, most recently when Lewis was released last week.
“If he spent further time in there, it wouldn’t be long enough for me,” she said. I wonder, did someone from the parole board find the time to sit with Mrs.Walsh and explain the rationale they used in freeing Lewis after only 13 years in jail? Thirteen years for ending the life of a little kid and putting her loved ones through hell for the rest of their time on Earth.
It was only a couple of years ago that parole board officials had determined that Lewis was a risk to reoffend.
What happened in the interim?
Was he a good little man who made his bed was made each morning? Did he have a spiritual awakening and establish a relationship with some abstract god? Is he a new man, willing to admit he didn’t really mean to choke Samantha Walsh to death in that lonely cabin in 2000? Well, I’m sure that would be just grand consolation for Mrs. Walsh.
Michael Lewis should have been forced to rot in prison for a long, long time, if not eternity, for his pre-meditated crime.
I can’t say what I’d do if I was Samantha’s brother and her killer was freed from prison after only 13 years. I’d like to suggest what I’d do. But it would probably serve no purpose to say what’s on my mind and I’d probably get into trouble anyway.
Suffice to say that I hope Michael Lewis leads a miserable existence and that he is haunted nightly by what he did to Samantha Walsh.
As for the members of the parole board who made this disgusting decision: they should be forced at least once a year to fly from Halifax and pay a visit to Samantha Walsh’s grave.
That’s the least they can do.
Bob Wakeham has spent more than 40 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.