Woman behind Stefanie Rengel killing loses appeal of decision to revoke parole

Woman behind Stefanie Rengel killing loses appeal of decision to revoke parole

A woman who pressured her boyfriend into murdering his teenage ex more than a decade ago has lost her bid to overturn the revocation of her parole.

In a decision released Friday, the appeal division of the Parole Board of Canada rejected Melissa Todorovic’s argument that the board was unreasonable and overly strict in cancelling her day parole last year.

The parole board moved to send Todorovic back to prison after finding she had become entangled in a secret love triangle, contravening a condition of her release that required she disclose any new relationships.

The one-person panel found at the time that Todorovic’s “purposeful and calculated” deception meant she posed an undue risk to the public.

She had been granted six months of day parole in a halfway house in late 2018, after the board found she had improved in understanding what led her to orchestrate the 2008 killing of 14-year-old Stefanie Rengel.

But the board required that she report any new romantic or platonic relationships because of the role unhealthy romance played in her crime.

The love triangle was discovered in March of last year, causing the board to suspend Todorovic’s parole, and a hearing was held in August to decide whether to uphold the suspension.

At that hearing, Todorovic’s parole officer said the woman had become romantically involved with two men on probation who were friends, and appeared to be turning them against each other.

Todorovic, meanwhile, said she knew it was wrong to hide the relationships, but insisted there was no manipulation.

In challenging the revocation, Todorovic argued the board should have been more lenient in assessing whether she posed a risk to the community, given she has spent the last 12 years in prison without the opportunity to understand how to function in the community.

The appeal division rejected that argument, saying Todorovic had participated in numerous programs and been granted temporary absences and work releases to prepare her to reintegrate into society.

“The reality is that you have been given every opportunity to improve your understanding of your risk and needs, to develop effective and meaningful strategies to recognize and manage your risks, and to prepare yourself for a graduated return to society,” the decision read. 

“Your own choices resulted in your suspension of day parole; your own decisions to be evasive and manipulative precipitated the revocation of your parole,” it said. 

“The board was not unreasonable in determining that, by engaging in romantic relationship with two friends, by psychologically manipulating one against the other, and by consciously choosing to not report these relationships to your (parole officer), you had become re-engaged in your offence cycle.”

The appeal ruling also dismissed her arguments that a victim impact statement read at the hearing went beyond what is permitted, and that there was a reasonable apprehension of bias because the panel member who heard her case had previously interacted with her in a professional capacity.

“The board member conducted a thorough hearing, was respectful and collegial with you and did not act in a manner that would suggest bias; nor did the decision appear to suggest that the board member relied upon her past knowledge of you to influence the decision,” the document said.

Todorovic was convicted of first-degree murder in 2009 for ordering her then-boyfriend, David Bagshaw, to kill Rengel. Both were sentenced to life in prison, with Todorovic eligible for parole after seven years.

The plot was fuelled by Todorovic’s jealous obsession with Rengel, a girl she had never met but who Bagshaw had briefly dated years earlier. Todorovic, who was 15 at the time, continuously threatened to break up with Bagshaw or withhold sex unless he killed Rengel.

He eventually lured Rengel out of her family’s Toronto home and stabbed her to death on New Year’s Day 2008.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Jan. 31, 2020.

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

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