The woman who killed Saanich teen Reena Virk in 1997 has been granted conditional day parole.

Now 35-years-old, Kelly Ellard is serving a life sentence for second-degree murder.

She appeared before a parole board on Thursday to request her release on day parole. Ellard, who was 15 at the time of Virk’s death, was granted day parole for six months on the condition that she must go directly into a residential substance abuse treatment program. After six months, the parole board will review the decision for day parole.

If she successfully completes the program, Ellard will then move to a halfway house. She will be monitored and be subject to conditions including reporting to a parole officer.

During her parole hearing, Ellard admitted responsibility for Virk’s death but denied that she had held Virk’s head underwater after beating her. She also said she was very sorry for what she had done and Virk didn’t deserve what happened to her.

Reena’s mother, Suman Virk, told CHEK News that she is disappointed Ellard was granted day parole and that she still won’t take full responsibility for Reena’s death.

Virk’s parents have long maintained that Ellard shouldn’t be free until she admits responsibility for holding Virk’s head underwater.

Ellard first applied for day parole in 2016 but was denied. In February, she was granted temporary escorted absences to go to parenting programs and doctor’s appointments with her baby.

She gave birth to a son in prison late last year after having conjugal visits with her boyfriend, who has also served prison time. The baby lives with Ellard at a woman’s prison in Abbotsford.

Ellard said she hopes to co-parent the child with the father but added that her focus is on the child’s well-being.

A court heard that Ellard and several other teens swarmed and beat Virk, before Ellard and a teenage boy followed her across Craigflower Bridge, smashed her head into a tree and held her underwater until she drowned.

Fourteen-year-old Reena Virk was killed in 1997.

Warren Glowatski was also convicted of second-degree murder and granted full parole in 2010.

Ellard has spent about 15 years in prison, having spent some periods out on bail. She was convicted of second-degree murder in 2005 after three trials. She recently assumed more responsibility for her part in the murder, saying she rolled Virk’s unconscious body into the Gorge waterway. But Ellard continued to deny holding Virk’s head underwater.

A two-member panel of the parole board decided in February that Ellard should be granted temporary escorted absences to spend time with her baby. However, the board told Ellard she needed to take more responsibility for Virk’s death.

With files from the Canadian Press and the CBC

Kelly Ellard. Photo courtesy CBC.

Kelly Ellard. File photo.

Andy Neal