Warning: This story contains details that may be disturbing to some readers. Discretion is advised.
The man who is serving a life sentence for the murder of Suzanne Seto, a 29-year-old Vancouver real estate appraiser, in 1980 has been granted a 60-day unescorted temporary absence to attend an Indigenous day healing program.
The Parole Board of Canada granted Kelly Toop’s request to attend the program to address “substance abuse and trauma-related needs,” during a July 24 hearing. But they denied Toop’s request for unescorted temporary absences to spend time with his wife
Toop, now 59, has been in custody since 1982 when he was arrested for the rape and attempted murder of another woman in Williams Lake. After he was arrested, he confessed to the 1980 murder of Seto.
Toop is serving a life sentence for first-degree murder, attempted murder, rape and acts of gross indecency.
The parole board heard at the time of Seto’s murder, Toop was unemployed, broke and depressed. On June 2, 1980, after drinking at a bar, Toop entered Seto’s hotel room through a window that was not secured.
Toop claimed his intention was to steal money. According to the parole board documents, Toop sexually assaulted Seto for more than three hours, then took her to a nearby wooded area, hit her on the head with a cement block and left.
Seto’s body was found the next day and Toop returned home to work for his father’s logging company.
Then in November 1982 in Williams Lake, Toop asked a young woman for a ride.
Along the way, he asked her to stop, claiming he wanted to get out. Toop then hit her on the head and face and sexually assaulted her three times. He then took the woman to his parents’ house and sexually assaulted her for several hours.
After binding her wrists with rope, Toop went to sleep. He later drove the woman to a gravel pit and hit her over the head with a heavy object.
“You left the victim in sub-zero temperatures believing you had killed her. The victim was found a short time later. Due to the nature of the victim’s injuries, she was unable to speak,” the parole board documents read.
According to the documents, there are numerous victim impact statements on file from over the years, including recent victim impact statements completed with regard to the July hearing.
The most recent statements from the victim of the attempted murder and rape described life long and enduring harm she continues to experience as a result of the “savage actions against” her. The second victim impact statement from the surviving family member of Suzanne Seto, Robert Seto, has participated in restorative justice sessions with Toop, according to the documents, and does not wish to be included in any no-contact order.
In granting the 60-day unescorted temporary absence, the board took into consideration Toop’s social history, including early childhood physical abuse at the hands of his father. Toop was also coerced into sex when he was 10 by an older boy, according to the documents. The boy also introduced him to pornography and would beat him. Toop turned to substances to cope with the trauma and his emotions.
Toop’s file also includes multiple psychiatric and psychological assessments. Two professional assessments (1982 for court and 1999) identified diagnoses of Anti-Social Personality Disorder and various diagnoses related to deviant sexual behaviour.
The 2004 psychiatric assessment stated Toop did not suffer from a major mental illness, however, does note Toop’s deviant sexual arousal pattern characterized by dominance, rage and aggression. The assessor found Toop’s sexual arousal was associated with violence and control.
In the 2019 psychological assessment, the psychologist said it was unclear whether Toop’s risk of your risk of sexual offending can be managed in an unsupervised setting. In the psychologist’s opinion, Toop’s risk for violent and sexual reoffending remains assessed as moderate to high.
The board also found that Toop continues to hold significant anti-authority attitudes. However, the recent program report from February to be a “very drastic shift in your level of participation and insight into your crime process. The board finds this positive shift in your program outcomes to be very recent and not indicative of an enduring commitment to change or acceptance of your level of understanding and insight into your deviant sexual preferences and behaviour.”
The board concluded that although Toop is not of Aboriginal descent, Toop has participated in Indigenous cultural and spiritual events and ceremonies for a number of years, “participating in one to ones and additional voluntary programs geared towards men making a commitment to healthy relationships and ending violence towards women.”
“It is the Board’s opinion that you will not, by reoffending, present an undue risk to society during your absence. In the Board’s opinion, is desirable for you to be absent from the penitentiary in order to address your substance abuse and trauma-related needs. Further, your behaviour while under sentence does not preclude authorizing the absence and a structured plan for the absence has been prepared,” the decision says.
Toop will be transported to the trauma program by correctional staff. The program is approximately 10 minutes away from the prison where Toop is being held. The location of the prison has not been disclosed.
He is not to consume, purchase or possess alcohol or drugs during the 60 days and must have no contact with the victim or any member of the victims’ families, with the exception of Robert Seto.
He is also not to go to Vancouver or Williams Lake. He must follow the treatment plan arranged by his parole supervisor and must not possess pornography or sexually explicit material.