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"Ontario woman convicted of son's starvation death granted full parole"

Canadian Press. Wednesday, May. 22, 2002

KINGSTON, Ont. (CP) -- An Ontario woman who was sentenced to 16 years in prison in one of Canada's stiffest penalties for child abuse will be released on full parole after serving less than half her term.

Lorelei Turner, 38, and her husband Steven were convicted of manslaughter in July 1995 for beating and starving their three-year-old son John to death in a case that horrified Canadians who followed the trial.

But on Wednesday, a panel of the National Parole Board in this eastern Ontario city ruled Turner will be released but placed on probation until July 2011.

Until then, she must remain within 25 kilometres of her residence, is not allowed unsupervised contact with anyone under 16, and must continue to receive counselling.

"The board would have looked at the risk and obviously found a low risk to reoffend," Carol Sparling of the National Parole Board said Wednesday.

Ellen Campbell, president of the Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness, expressed shock at the board's decision given the public outcry over the Randal Dooley murder case in Toronto.

Randal's stepmother Marcia Dooley and his father Tony Dooley were convicted of second-degree murder last month in the vicious beating death of the seven-year-old boy. She received an 18-year sentence and he received 13 years.

"The judge in that case set a precedent calling child abuse murder and treating it seriously," Campbell said. "And the public is so angry about what the Dooleys did and awareness of the issue of child abuse is really growing, but I guess (the parole board's decision) shows we have a ways to go."

She said lawyers and judges need to attend education sessions to learn about the complexities of child abuse.

"A stiff sentence for an abuser sends a message to the survivors that their lives mean something," Campbell said. "It's recognition that what happened to them was wrong."  At the time, the Turners' sentence was considered a landmark. That changed with the terms given to the Dooleys.

Turner was denied full parole last fall after the parole board expressed concern about her plans to continue an unspecified relationship after release from prison.

Her husband, who currently lives with his mother and attends college, was granted full parole in August 2001. He had also received a 16-year sentence. He is believed to be living in Sudbury, Ont.

The case horrified people across the country as the two-week trial in 1995 chronicled the abuse the boy suffered.

Few parts of John's skeletal frame were not covered in bruises, cuts, sores or self-inflicted bite marks. He also had numerous scars and bone fractures in various states of healing.

The boy had not eaten for weeks and may have refused food. In the final days of his life at Canadian Forces Base Chatham, N.B., John was restrained by a harness and gagged with a sock to muffle his cries. He died on May 29, 1994.

During the trial, Turner's friends described her as a loving mother to a daughter born in 1993, when John was three.

There have been reports that the girl has since been adopted by a New Brunswick couple.

Neighbours and acquaintances testified that Turner was overwhelmed by the normal demands of motherhood after John's birth in August 1990 and grew jealous of the attention her husband gave to their son and of his ability to calm the child.

When Steven Turner, a military mechanic, pulled away from John to force the boy to bond with his mother, the emotional rejection tore the child apart.

Experts testified that John withdrew from the loveless world around him, stopped eating and wasted away.

Copyright 2002, Canoe, a division of Netgraphe Inc. All rights reserved.