This story contains details that some readers may find upsetting.
The man who killed 10-year-old Heather Thomas in Cloverdale more than two decades ago is at “average” risk to reoffend sexually, according to a Parole Board decision granting his request for Escorted Temporary Absences (ETAs) from custody.
Shane Robert Ertmoed, 43, applied for the ETAs on April 7, for the purpose of completing community service.
In a letter accompanying the application, he apologized for his actions – which included abducting, sexually assaulting and strangling Heather, then concocting an alibi before dumping her body in a lake – and provided insight into them, the decision states.
Serving a life sentence for first-degree murder, Ertmoed told the board that leading up to Heather’s Oct. 1, 2000 murder, he was dealing with “a combination of life stressors” that included financial, social, immaturity, isolation, boredom, preoccupation with sex, deviant thoughts, panic and selfishness, the decision states.
Upon arrest, Ertmoed confessed and provided a detailed description of the murder. He then recanted and appealed, maintaining his innocence until the appeal was dismissed.
The parole-board decision, rendered May 4, notes that the board weighed the severity of Ertmoed’s crime, and that his actions “show capability for extreme violence.”
“You planned the abduction of a random young girl for the purpose of sexual assault and you carried this out. When events did not go as you expected, you killed your victim, and then took measures to avoid being caught,” it reads.
“These static factors will always be aggravating in the Board’s assessment of your case. You took an innocent life and your actions have had a profound negative impact on family members and others.”
The written decision also notes that information on file regarding Ertmoed, dating back to nine years before Heather’s death, states he had demonstrated sexually inappropriate behaviour as a youth towards young girls.
Reports included that he had lifted a girl’s skirt and touched her; grabbed two girls and rubbed himself against them; placed his hand on a girl’s thigh on the school bus; sent a sexually explicit letter, described as “threatening,” to a female teacher detailing sexual acts he wanted to perform on her; broke into the home of a female co-worker who had spurned his advances; and sexually assaulted a seven-year-old girl that he and his girlfriend were babysitting. The latter occurred four times over the course of one evening.
Heather’s mother, Jody Aspin, and Heather’s childhood best friend Katherine Charette spoke at the May 4 hearing, registering their opposition to Ertmoed’s request.
In Aspin’s statement – shared that afternoon with Peace Arch News – she told the board that Ertmoed “not only took my daughter’s life, he took mine.”
She said Ertmoed’s rights died with her daughter and appealed to the board to stop allowing him to continue victimizing her and her family.
She told PAN that the board’s decision was “beyond disappointing.”
In the written decision – released to PAN Thursday (May 13) afternoon – the board said mitigating factors they weighed included that Ertmoed has now served approximately 20 years in custody, and that he has accepted both responsibility for the crime and a correctional plan. As well, he’s earned minimum-security classification, and shown “strong motivation” by completing and showing benefit from programming objectives.
The board “saw evidence of this progress” at the hearing, the decision continues.
“You provided examples of how your thinking has changed and how you use skills and concepts from programming. The Board finds that you have used your time in the institution productively. You have made significant progress, and this progress has resulted in risk reduction.”
Letters of support for Ertmoed that the board also considered included one from a retired police officer.
“The Board finds that you will not, by reoffending, present an undue risk to society during the ETAs,” the decision states. “It is desirable for you to be absent from the penitentiary, your behaviour while under sentence does not preclude approval, and a structured plan has been prepared.”
The ETAs were approved for one year, starting after COVID-19 restrictions lift. They are for up to five days per week, Monday through Friday, for no more than eight hours per day, and physical restraints will not be required.
Conditions attached include that Ertmoed have no contact with children, any of Heather’s family members or a person identified as “K.C.”
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