Despite being under a condition not to possess firearms, a Newfoundland man convicted of fatally shooting his ex-girlfriend was using a rifle to perform work duties while on day parole.
According to Cecil Joseph Pendergast’s six-month review by the Parole Board of Canada for the extension of day parole, there have been two incidents in which the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) had to interview him because of concerns raised.
“The first of these was a situation where you were required to handle a rifle at work,” says the decision, made June 6 and filed June 16.
“As this is contrary to your Section 109 (firearm prohibition under the Criminal Code) court order, CSC contacted your employer, who assured CSC that you would no longer be handling the weapon,” it said.
CSC also informed local police, says the decision, who were satisfied the situation had been handled appropriately.
The second incident involved Pendergast signing out of the halfway house with a fellow resident.
“When reminded that such socializing was limited to only specific productive pro-social activities, you told CSC that you had misunderstood, and assured that you would be compliant in the future.”
Neither incident resulted in charges being laid or privileges being revoked, according to the board’s decisions.
The board noted Pendergast is abiding by rules and regulations and adjusting to reintegration back into society after having been incarcerated since 2000, when he was initially arrested for shooting Brenda Gillingham in her Torbay Estates apartment in St. John’s.
Gillingham died from her injuries June 28, 2000. She was 40 years old.
Pendergast, now 64, had been charged with first-degree murder, but prior to his trial he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced on April 19, 2002 to life in prison with no parole eligibility for 15 years.
He appealed the sentence, but it was dismissed.
Pendergast's time toward parole eligibility began ticking from the day he was arrested on June 29, 2000, and not when he was convicted.
Under the law, he was able to apply for day parole and unescorted temporary absences in June 2012.
In 2011 and early 2012, he was granted a series of escorted temporary absences (ETAs) for administrative, family contact and personal development reasons. In August 2012, Pendergast applied for an unescorted temporary absence (UTA).
According to board decisions, Pendergast was first released on day parole in June 2013, it was renewed in December 2013 for a further six months and this month he was granted six more.
The board refers to several tests and assessments Pendergast has taken and notes he is a low risk to violently reoffend. However, he is considered a high risk to reoffend in a domestic situation.
That hasn’t changed over the years, as Pendergast was in a drunken, jealous rage when he shot Gillingham in the face after taking a loaded shotgun to her home.
Her young son was in an adjoining room.
During the hearing, the court was told that even though he had been drinking extensively that day, “the level of impairment didn’t diminish his intent to cause her death.”
He has since undergone counselling for alcohol abuse and family violence prevention, and has engaged in aboriginal activities.
The board’s decisions says Pendergast’s involvement in programming has helped him make significant progress.
When Pendergast first applied for release, Gillingham’s sister and daughter filed victim impact statements to the board and started a petition to keep him locked up.
But as they told The Telegram in February, their voices weren’t heard.
“Your voice doesn’t mean anything,” said Gillingham’s sister, Barbara St. Onge.
“I said to my husband, it was such a waste of time and so stressful to get the words on paper. No matter what we say or do, or how many people are behind us, he’s getting whatever he wants and that’s it,” she said.
Laura Lee Gillingham was 18 when her mother was killed.
When Pendergast appealed his sentence and was being escorted from the Court of Appeal, she pounced on him, knocking him to the ground.
The parole board hearing last year was the first time Laura Lee, a 32-year-old student of social studies and women’s issues, had seen him since.
She told The Telegram in February before they went to the hearing that they provided the board with a petition with 1,649 signatures on it opposed to his release, but it didn’t make a difference.
“There’s no justice in Canada,” she said.
Pendergast can apply for another six-month leave in December and full parole in June 2015.