A Newfoundland man who was four years old when he saw his father brutally beat his mother to death says he's living in fear knowing Dale Ogden is out on day parole and believes he should have received a more punitive sentence.
Daniel Benoit, 22, said he wants to start a national conversation about murder sentences and Canada's justice system in general, which he says lets convicted murderers off too easily.
Ogden was sentenced to life in prison for the second-degree murder of his wife Judy Ogden in early 2000, and the judge set his parole eligibility at 14 years. He has been out on day parole since September after being released from William Head Institution in Victoria, B.C.
"He can go and see his family. He can walk down the street. He can live a normal life," said Benoit in a phone interview from his home in Stephenville, N.L., on Wednesday.
"Meanwhile, when it comes time to see my mother for her birthday or Mother's Day or Christmas, the only chance I have is to walk up and speak to a headstone that's stuck in the ground. I'll never get a chance to hug my mother again, or kiss her, or tell her I love her. He took that away."
Benoit, who legally changed his last name to his mother's maiden name, said Dale Ogden was an abusive man and an addict with an extensive criminal past, having faced numerous charges including assault, theft and fraud.
He and his wife were headed for divorce and he was under a court order to stay away from her. Nevertheless, Ogden would drive past their home in Port au Port West, N.L.. Benoit's mother was so afraid, she had the windows and doors barred.
"My mom knew she was going to die," said Benoit. "He was a very violent man. He was strict with women and wanted 100 per cent control. Basically he thought, 'If I can't have you, no one can have you.'"
On July 23, 1997, Benoit said Ogden forced his way into the home. He said his father woke him up and Benoit cowered in the hallway, watching as Ogden beat his 25-year-old mother to death in her bedroom, shattering her nose with his fist and caving in her skull with an axe.
"Nothing terrifies me more than having to think back and see my mom fight for her life while this man beat her to death," said Benoit, who went into foster care with his 14-month-old sister following the murder. "I couldn't even look at a picture of my mother until I was 16 because I used to throw up. You get flashbacks."
Benoit said he feels revictimized with Ogden out on day parole. Ogden is currently living at a halfway house on Vancouver Island.
"I feel like I'm living the life my mother had before she was killed," said Benoit, who still suffers from PTSD. "I feel like I'm always looking over my shoulder, especially having a fiancee and a 15-month-old child of my own."
He said he wanted to share his story in the hopes that other people will come forward with their experiences to start a national conversation about murder sentences. He said setting a convicted murderer's parole at 14 years is not a deterrent.
"The more people that see these instances of offenders being released after a short period of time for serious crimes like murder, there's nothing to put fear in their minds. The way they're going to look at it is 'I can do what I want and basically I'll get a slap on the wrist'," said Benoit, who now works offshore and gives talks about violence against women.
"To do something like that in front of a four year-old boy and make him witness that, not only did you commit a crime by committing murder, but it should be a crime to traumatize a child the way that I have been."
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Aly Thomson, The Canadian Press