A convicted killer and sexual predator who could have spent his life in Canadian prison was instead back in the United States Tuesday for a court hearing, as an American prosecutor questioned the Parole Board of Canada’s logic in sending him her way.
“They made him our problem,” Niagara County District Attorney Caroline Wojtaszek said of 47-year-old William Shrubsall, who fractured one of his victims’ skull with a baseball bat during his spree of violence in Nova Scotia during the late 1990s.
“He is an extremely scary individual. He has the combination of brutal violence and sexual offences over the majority of his young adult to adult life. To me I can’t think of anyone better to confine for the rest of his life.”
The Upstate New York prosecutor was referring to the Nov. 7 decision by two parole board members authorizing Shrubsall’s release and deportation.
The board’s six-page ruling was based in part on the authors’ belief the offender would “face many more years” of incarceration in Niagara County — where he jumped bail during his trial for sexually abusing a 17-year-old girl in 1996.
Wojtaszek questioned that logic, saying there are limits on her ability to incarcerate Shrubsall, who has adopted the name Ethan Simon Templar MacLeod.
“There is nothing in that (parole board) decision that would leave society to be any safer than it was when he was first designated a dangerous offender,” she said.
“We’re confined by the sentencing structure of 1996 … and so what you’re looking at is four years and eight months before he’s out. In no way does that create a safety net for society.”
Wojtaszek will now attempt to secure a conviction and the maximum sentence for Shrubsall jumping bail during his 1996 trial in Niagara County for sexual abuse of a 17-year-old girl he met at a party.
On Monday, Shrubsall was handed over to the Niagara County police, and brought to a county jail to begin serving his sentence for the sexual abuse. He’s eligible for parole in two years and four months for that offence.
The maximum sentence for jumping bail is similar, with eligibility for bail at two years and four months, said Wojtaszek.
The court proceedings on the bail jumping charge were scheduled to begin on Tuesday, with future court dates expected to be set.
However, Wojtaszek argued Canada was in a better position to keep Shrubsall in jail due to the majority of his most violent crimes being committed in Nova Scotia.
The court proceedings that led to Shrubsall’s designation in 2001 as a dangerous offender — meaning he could be held in prison for an indefinite period — lasted over two months, and heard that some of his Canadian victims have suffered disabilities that will last a lifetime.
In February 1998, while robbing a retail store, he struck a female employee with a baseball bat, fracturing her skull. A few months later, in May 1998, he attacked and sexually assaulted a woman walking home from work.
In June 1998, he met a woman in a bar and took her to a residence in a taxi. He wouldn’t let her leave his apartment, choking and sexually assaulting her.
In his oral judgment, the Nova Scotia judge said he didn’t see a “realistic prospect of controlling the threat of dangerousness and managing the risk” of Shrubsall as a regular offender.
The judge ruled he was likely to continue to pose a risk to others that would “likely result in death, severe physical injury or psychological damage to a future victim.”
He was also described as “lacking a conscience.”
Shrubsall’s record also includes bludgeoning his mother to death with a baseball bat in their home the night before his graduation, a crime committed while he was a juvenile.
The parole board decision allowing his release said he was not currently considered to be a psychopath.
It also said he had behaved well, had completed programs to reduce his violence, had been attending regular psychological counselling and had been developing a plan for his release into the community.
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However, it also said these factors “would not have been enough” for his release without the board members’ knowledge he would be deported to Niagara County to face jail time. Board members also noted he continued to be overly focused on himself, rather than the impact his crime had on his victims.
Asked about the case, the parole board sent an email with general comments about its record, declining any specific comment.
“I can tell you that as with all Parole Board of Canada decisions, the protection of society is the paramount consideration,” wrote Holly Knowles, a board spokeswoman, in an email.
“When taking decisions on the parole of an offender, board members do a thorough risk assessment. They review information from a wide range of sources, including information from the police and courts, psychological/psychiatric reports, risk assessment tools, the correctional plan and progress reports, information submitted by victims, and the offender’s release plan.”
However, Wojtaszek said she agreed with Halifax Crown attorney Paul Carver — who led the effort to obtain Shrubsall’s dangerous offender designation — that the board’s ruling was based more on “hope than reason.”
She said it’s possible, that as the date of Shrubsall’s release approaches, that the state attorney general could apply for a special confinement order that he be retained in a centre for sexual offenders.
But she said this would essentially be forcing the American authorities to go through a similar process to the dangerous offender designation in Canada 18 years ago.
“We have to re-do in New York State what Paul Carver did in an attempt to have him civilly confined,” she said.
“My concern with that is that he committed very, very serious crimes in Canada and I don’t see the rationale for letting him out.”
Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press