Twenty-five years ago my dad, Cst. Emmanuel Aucoin, was murdered by an American, Anthony Romeo, who was on the run from the New York State authorities for another murder he had committed two years prior. This past Thursday I attended the first parole hearing for the offender. It was far more emotional and stressful than I expected. The whole trip was a really tough balance of trying to relax while mentally preparing to go to the prison and ‘deal with’ the hearing process. Here’s how it went.
My dear friend Deanna traveled with me as my support person and she could not have been a better friend throughout this trip. We flew from Calgary to Halifax on the red-eye. Usually this is my favorite flight as I can sleep on planes and don’t feel like I’ve wasted a day traveling. Unfortunately, there was one extremely unhappy baby on the flight that, at first, was just crying but then later in the flight turned in to a super angry screaming baby that simply could not be coaxed to sleep. I could only turn up my iPod so loud before my ears would surely start getting damaged so all in all I probably was able to get (maybe) 2 hours sleep. Landing in Halifax in to a traditional foggy day made for that much more of a driving challenge. However, we had planned on a touristy drive to the Island and goddammit we were going to do just that no matter what the weather was serving us.
Making our way to Antigonish and up the 337 highway to Cape George Point it was a beautiful drive – and, of course, would’ve been so much more beautiful had we been able to see through the fog. However, we did see a cool lighthouse and passed by the Bluefin Tuna Interpretive Centre. Will definitely be back to check that out.
Starting to get hungry and on our way to the ferry over to the Island we randomly found a roadside food shack called the Sunset Cabana. Now if you know me you know that I love good food and this place did not disappoint. It was a simple small shack where one man creates delicious burgers and unreal fresh fish and chips. All REALLY GOOD. I found a small article about it here. If you’re in the area it is definitely worth the drive.
Finally making it to the Island and to my cousin Laura’s place – time was ticking by getting closer to the hearing. So on Wednesday, Laura, Deanna and I did a bit of sight-seeing in the rain/gray/drizzle type of spring day that we had. We made our way to Cavendish which is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful and calming places in the world even on a shitty gray day. We walked around looking at rocks and snails while listening to the ever lapping ocean roll on to the coast. It was great.
Then it was Thursday morning… We left for the hearing which was held at the Dorchester Penitentiary in New Brunswick. I wanted to drive as it calms me and it is a nice drive too. We arrived 2-ish hours later in the parking lot of this daunting structure. It is old and menacing looking – even more so on a rainy day. As soon as we got to the parking lot this is when it hit me – I am doing this and it is a big deal. The emotions started to well up and all I want to do is ‘keep it together’ and get through this. I asked Laura and Deanna to not touch or hug me until the hearing was over because I felt like I would break and have a complete meltdown before the process even got started… totally a personal control mechanism but it works (kind of) for me.
We walk up the steps in to the prison and there is a line-up to go through security. There are a lot of media. I had been in communication with the Fredericton newspaper and with Moncton CBC but I did not expect CTV, Global, the Canadian Press and others to also attend. Now I feel that I must keep it together even more because I will be talking with them afterwards. Sigh.
After security processing we are led to a room beside where the hearing will be held. The parole board communications officer, Cathy, assigned to this case explains the process and we are able to see the room and know who will be sitting where. I begin to get really emotional and am unable to control the alligator tears welling up. The corrections officers are very kind and bring in boxes of tissues and a jug of water and glasses.
Then we’re told it’s time for the hearing to begin. Before we enter the board members (three people), the offender, his parole officer and his attendant are all sitting at a large table in the middle/front of the room. Also, the offender’s parents and a parole consultant they have hired are already sitting in the viewing seats behind the offender. We have to walk between the parents and the offender to our seats on the other side of the room. I feel nauseous and am not sure how I’m going to get through this. We sit down and I’m shaking like a leaf holding a sheet of paper with both hands that has my typed victim impact statement on it. I look up and see the back and right side of the offender’s face and feel myself gasp and stare. He’s ugly. He’s fat. He’s slouching in the chair. I’m disgusted.
The hearing begins and before I know it it is time to read my statement. I take a deep breath and read this:
On the morning of March 8, 1987 everything changed. My mother was making my brother and I lunch when my dad’s boss, police partners and our neighbour came to the door. My mother seemed to know what was going on and I remember her beginning to scream and cry while one of the constables took my brother and me in to the living room to tell us that our dad was really hurt. So hurt that we wouldn’t see him again. I would find out not long afterwards that he was killed by this offender. This murderer had been pulled over for speeding on a country road near our home and decided to shoot my dad in the head instead of dealing with the consequences of his actions. Already on the run from American authorities for another murder, he thought that he could get away with murdering a police officer and drove past my family’s home in Harvey as he was bolting for the U.S. border. Luckily, with the cooperation of the American authorities, he was caught in Boston and brought back to New Brunswick to stand trial. He attempted to plead insanity to get away with this murder, however, the courts were able to sift through his garbage of a plea and deemed him fit to serve time in a facility that was appropriate for his crime.
I don’t know what kind of life I would have had had this offender not killed my dad and ruined our family. We will never know because when this murderer decided to callously and maliciously take the life of my dad he also killed my childhood. This offender murdered my sense of security and our stable happy family. I have gone through years of various therapy treatments to deal with the aftermath of issues that stemmed from this horrible event. Thinking that this offender may be allowed to have any level of freedom makes me sick. Having had to deal with 25 years of being the daughter of a slain officer is hard enough – I do not want to have to deal with this offender being granted any level of release from the prison system.
There are many innocent people who were affected when this offender murdered my dad. Obviously, those of us in the immediately families are the most affected, however, there are the extended families, friends, co-workers, neighbours and communities who were all part of this tragic event. Twenty-five years have passed and nothing that can be done to change what has happened but we can make sure that this offender is not allowed to enjoy any form of release any time soon. Please make the right choice when deciding on this case. He does not deserve freedom and is lucky enough to be serving time in a Canadian prison as it is. This offender is a killer – please don’t allow him to walk our streets in our communities.
I don’t know if my statement actually made an impact on the board’s decision but I hope it did. Even though throughout the hearing it became quite clear to everyone in the room that the offender has serious mental health issues and is far from being released. I watched his parents and could see the disappointment on their faces looking at their incarcerated son. I didn’t want to feel sorry for them but I did. If they hadn’t spoiled him letting him do whatever the hell he wanted but instead were more strict and got him the mental health help that might’ve helped him – we surely would not have to be going through this.
After the hearing I got a much needed big group hug from Deanna and Laura and we all had a bit more of a cry. Now it was time to face the media. I wanted to look like a ‘strong’ person for the news reports and mustered every ounce of my brave self to be in front of the pack of cameras and microphones that were waiting for me. A lot of news articles (TV, radio, paper and internet) announced the good news that the offender was denied parole. The best one we could find, with video, was through the regional CTV news.
Then we headed back to PEI and celebrated – obviously with lobster 🙂
I cannot express enough gratitude to everyone who supported me through this. I received phone calls, text messages and emails from so many family and friends giving their kind words of support. Every single one was so greatly appreciated and absolutely helped me through. This was a tough thing to do and am happy to have done it.