18 year old Darren Heinemann of Saanich - British Columbia seemed to be a model student, friend, son and grandson. His mother Sharon called him the perfect gentleman as did most of the community around him. When his grandmother Doris made out her will in 1989, she made it so her daughter Sharon would receive half of her $4 million dollar estate and Darren the other half. At the same time Sharon updated her will to include Darren as the beneficiary of her estate. If they ever came to harm and died, he would be a very rich young man. In the fall of 1989, Darren Heinemann decided that he wanted to be that very rich young man now. The book, Such A Good Boy: How A Pampered Son's Greed Led to Murder, written by Lisa Hobbs Bernie, starts out with a profile of the characters involved in the brutal tale. First is Doris Kryciak Leatherbarrow, born in Calder, Saskatchewan in 1920. Doris grew up in poverty, the oldest of seven children in the farming family. Doris was a good student when she went to school, but quit at fifteen and worked at school. She married George Artemenko, a shipyard worker and became pregnant soon after. She gave birth to Sharon Doreen in March of 1943. This daughter never knew her father. George died in a fall at work three months after the birth of his child.
This left Doris alone and knowing that she needed to do something to support her child. After the war, she landed a job with the newly formed Unemployment Services in the Vancouver area where she raised enough money to complete one of her dreams…own her own dress shop. She married again to Rene Leatherbarrow and expanded her dress shop to a large fashion warehouse with four stores. Next explained in the book is Sharon Doreen Leatherbarrow. She grew up under a mother that was always working and a father that was usually away on business excursions. She learned how to manipulate her mother using guilt to receive what her young heart desired. She married three times: the second wedding yielding a son named Darren Charles and the third wedding to Ralph Huenemann lasted until her death. Sharon usually lived off her mother's wealth, but was later put on the payroll By Doris when Doris needed assistance in her work.
The last character explained is Darren Charles Huenemann. He grew up in almost constant attention from his mother and beloved grand Doris. Birnie states, "By the time he was in the third grade he had learned the rules... He had to be clean, polished, polite, under control, understanding and always very nice to other people. Darren interacted differently with his peers at younger ages…he didn't engage in physical sport often, but was popular due to is financial status. He became involved with a group of role-players in the popular game Dungeons and Dragons. Here he let some of his true feelings loose: the desire to rebel, the violence and rudeness he kept inside and the tendencies he had to kill his grandmother Doris.
The book then turns to a chronological telling of the events, Starting with the drafting of the wills of Doris and Sharon. This seemed to be a turning point for young Darren who stepped up his ideas around his peers. He confronted two of his friends, David Muir and Derik Lord, both 16 years old. These youths, although pleasant enough around their families, had already dealt in illegal activities, smuggling lethal knives into Canada from a post office box in Washington State. He promised them rewards for killing his grandmother and mother. For David, a cabin in the woods, a new car and about 100,000 dollars. For Derik, he would become Darren's bodyguard and also receive land and money for weapons. They agreed, and decided after weeks of thinking over the problem that the easiest way to kill the pair would be when Sharon visited Doris in nearby Tsawwassen. They would break in, wait for the pair, then club them and slit their throats.
Darren, in the meantime, had become delusional. He staged a play at his school called Caligula, a play about a Roman emperor who symbolizes absolute freedom and consummate evil. He began to speak of ruling small countries and revealed his murderous plans to his girlfriend, Amanda Cousins. She did not tell anyone about the plot, for she feared that Darren would kill her as well. After a botched attempt two weeks before, Derik and David entered the house of Doris Leatherbarrow on October 5th, 1990, stating they were Darren's friends stopping by. Sharon put two more helpings of dinner into the microwave. Derik and David then struck the two with their concealed crowbars and used kitchen knives to slit their throats. They overturned furniture and emptied drawers in an attempt to make it look like a botched break and enter. Darren and Amanda picked them up after their ferry ride, and Darren drove his friends’ home and then returned to his house to wait for his mother's return. The police had other suspects, such as business associates, but Darren had the motive of greed and so they asked around in his circle of friends, including Lords, Muir and Cousins. Darren hired lawyers for the three youths, which fueled the suspicions. Then, after a period of questioning, the police made a move. They moved on David Muir, finding inconsistencies in his stories. David cracked. He gave a full confession. However, this was not admissible evidence, but it confirmed the fears of the investigators that Darren had brutal planned the whole thing. They then went to Amanda who also gave her account on the night of the murders in exchange for Crown Witness status. This was the evidence the police needed. They arrested Muir, Lords and Heunemann for first degree murder. While Heunemann could be tried in an adult court since he was 18, the other two boys were only 16, which meant a hearing to see if they should be lifted to adult court as well. Issues here included the reform possibilities of the two, their mental health and the harshness of adult prisons and the severity of the brutal slayings. It was concluded that both should be tried in an adult court and that no protection from the Young Offenders Act should be offered.
In the Heunemann trial, the crown lawyer Sean Madigan knew that reasonable doubt and presumption of innocence would be his obstacles and that defense lawyer Chris Considine would use these tactics and clauses to win his case. Pictures of the victims, character witnesses against Darren and a few of Darren's friends from Dungeons & Dragons game sessions were the prosecution's tools to try to convict Darren. Darren's friends all testified that he had been known to say that he wanted to snap [his] gran's neck. Amanda Cousins testified that Darren had shared his plans with her all along. Defense lawyer's attacked her credibility, citing that she had lied to police numerous times during questioning and that her testimony was a way of revenge against Darren for ending their relationship. In their final arguments, both the Crown and the defense used elements of Amanda's testimony to strengthen their case.
The jury, after only three hours after retiring, decided to believe Amanda Cousins and delivered a guilty verdict on both counts of murder against Darren Huenemann. The judge sentenced Darren to imprisonment for life without eligibility for parole for 25 years. At this, Darren Heunemann, calm throughout the trial, dropped his mask, and cursed the judge, the court and the world. In the cases of Muir and Lord, the same elements, presumption of innocence and reasonable doubt were used by the defense to try to acquit their clients. For Lord, he also had a statement by his mother, Elouise Lord, claiming that Derik was home for the evening on October 5, 1990. The Crown drew upon Amanda Cousins's testimony again to describe the events of that evening as well as two young eye witnesses that placed the pair in the neighborhood that night. The taxi driver who drove the pair to the neighborhood, who had identified the pair at the first hearing, not wasn't so sure about the pair, vaguely remembering the youths. The defense jumped on this, hoping to raise doubt in the jury. Curiously enough, the defense for Muir offered no evidence for their client, only using the presumption of innocence in the closing arguments. The jury did not know of the confession, since it was inadmissible by law, but the evidence was still overwhelming.
The jury, after a night and morning of deliberation, returned guilty verdicts for both boys. They asked, however, that the boys be afforded some protection by the Young Offenders Act, in that they be eligible for parole earlier than the usual 25 years. The judge sentenced the two to life imprisonment with parole available after 10 years of their sentence. The last two convictions, after the Lord family's appeal was turned down by the Appeal Court of British Columbia were the end of the brutal tale. Birnie then makes the comment that as they walk out of the courtroom, it is clear the schoolboys have gone forever and hard-time inmates are fast emerging.
Lisa Hobbs Birnie is a career journalist and has written other books such as I Saw Red China, India and India…. Love and Liberation; Running Towards Life and A Rock and A Hard Place. Prior to living in Canada, she worked as a reporter in her Native Australia, then in England and in the United States. She now lives on an offshore island in British Columbia where she studies cases and other stories. In Birnie's attempt to capture the elements of the case and deliver them without bias and with integrity, one can see she has succeeded in most areas. She used perspectives from almost every angle and combined them with equal criticism and judgment.
The book is divided into logical parts, each outlining certain Aspect of the case, such as profiles of the main players, the outline of the plan and the separate trials. However, save mentioning the people who said certain statements, she does not reference the trial at all or any other books with a reference page. However, it does state that she spent countless hours at the hearings and trials in the cover notes of the book, therefore this shows she have first-person experience of the case.
Lisa Hobbs Birnie doesn't really argue the case. She only relates the facts as she saw them. However, she does make a few points of interest. She seems to disagree with certain aspects of the Young Offenders Act, stating, it's the judge's assessment of the mind-state of the offender that can result in either a treatment-orientated three-year slap on the wrist or 25 years as a lifer. This may show that Birnie feels that the Act is too lenient on the more serious crimes. Also, she shows her ideals on psychiatrists and psychologists, stating they work in a grey area while law students, lawyers and experts live in only in black and white. This can cause great rifts in a courtroom with lawyers wanting a yes or no while the psychologist can only give maybes. In a similar case, Steve Wayne Benson, son of the wealthy Benson family who accumulated wealth in the Tobacco Industry. He too, was shielded, protected and dominated by his powerful family.
He planted bombs inside his parents van and destroyed them himself. The difference in the case is that the accused was older, all of 34 years. The motive and the delusions are the same. Greed and the idea that the money will give him ultimate power. He was sentenced to life imprisonment without any chance of parole, mostly because of his age and his unrepentant attitude. Another case is the one of the Japanese son Sawanoi who butchered his parents because they didn't agree with him. The youth was there, he was only 12 when he committed the crime and would serve very little time inn Canada because of the Young Offenders Act. However the Japanese courts put him into a mental asylum indefinitely because of his mental state. The motive to kill was not the same as the Huenemann or the Benson murders. The contribution of the Huenemann, Lord and Muir cases relate to the Young Offenders Act. The fact that Lord and Muir were raised to an adult court instead of a youth court. This probably happened partly because of public pressure of the community to see justice done. Also, the life convictions, with no parole until 10 years were done, was a harsh punishment for the 16 year olds, however it showed that the court was not going to be lenient for just a heinous crime. This may set a precedent for other courts to use the full extent of their power to deliver a jurisprudent sentence, one of justice and fairness. Also a power sentence will show that the youth, knowing exactly what they were doing, are not above the law in their rights. Huenemann's money and influence also was shown to be ineffective in his attempts to become above the law. Finally, this case gives an example of the motive of greed, purely and as evil as it gets.
This case shows that pampering a child, showering him with wealth and flaunting the idea that it will all be his someday is a formula for disaster. The child does not have a chance to develop his own personality, therefore puts up masks and his real personality broods and grows to resent his elders. The book, Such A Good Boy: How A Pampered Son's Greed Led To Murder, written by Lisa Hobbs Birnie, is a well written case review, with very little bias or contrary opinion. It strictly relates the facts in almost every aspect. This would be a good book for a senior law class to read and relate their ideas on the evidence, the judgment and the inside of the criminal mind of Darren Huenemann.
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