(Book cover photo doesn’t require a cutline)

No closure to Johnson Bentley murder tragedy

Man convicted of the Johnson Bentley family murders can seek parole release in 2021

How Canada’s justice system works for the survivors of murder victims will be on display when the parole hearing for the convicted killer of two families connected to West Kelowna is held next year.

Author Alan Warren said he was drawn to the story of the Johnson and Bentley family murders in Wells Gray Provincial Park in the summer of 1982 because of the residual impact the murders continue to hold on surviving family members and friends this many years later.

That impact is a reflection of David Ennis, formerly Shearing, convicted of murdering George and Edith Bentley of Port Coquitlam along with their daughter Jackie Johnson, her husband Bob and their two daughters Janet, 13, and Karen, 11, of West Kelowna.

Ennis is up for parole for a third time.

In 2008, 2012 and 2014, his parole applications were rejected. In 2016, Ennis opted to revoke his parole application just prior to his hearing. He can reapply for parole before the Parole Board of Canada every five years.

READ MORE: Notorious murderer of West Kelowna family waives right to parole review

While the Johnson Bentley Aquatic Centre is named in honour of the two families, Warren said as time has passed and the city has grown, many people don’t know or recall the details behind the murders.

That background coupled with the willingness of family members and friends to speak about the tragedy and how it still affects their lives today, led Warren to write his new book, Murder Time Six: The True Story of the Wells Gray Park Murders.

Warren, who has lived in Lake Country since the ’90s, has written 15 previous books about infamous crimes, which has been a sidelight to his other career as a syndicated radio talk show host in the U.S., based out of Seattle.

The book will be published in early September and Warren anticipates it will generate a lot of interest among new and long-time Central Okanagan residents. The idea was first brought to his attention by a Kelowna hair salon owner.

What made the book a reality, he said, was the willingness of the surviving family members and friends to talk about the murders, how it changed their lives forever and how the possibility of parole for Ennis forces them to dredge up those memories in speaking out against his release.

“For many of them who have dedicated themselves to making sure this guy never gets out on parole, it’s like this all happened yesterday. There is no real closure,” he said.

READ MORE: Westbank effort to keep killer behind bars growing

READ MORE: Notorious murderer waives right to parole review

Today, Ennis is incarcerated in a medium security prison. He has since changed his name, gotten married and has two kids, and has renewed his faith in God.

For the book, Warren said he had the opportunity to sit down and interview Ennis, but was left only with the impression of what Ennis wanted him to have.

“That is true of most serial killers that they share with you what they want, what they want to project.”

“He lives in a cell. Has a TV and tends to a garden. He is not living a bad life as far as prison goes, but I’m not sure you can call living in a jail cell without any counselling or rehabilitative effort on his part, which he is not mandated to do, serves for someone to be called rehabilitated.”

Warren said his personal opinion is Ennis should not be granted parole, and is willing to support any effort by the survivors next year to support that reasoning.

“I think a case like this also raises the issue of what the expectation is for the justice system in the interests of society.

“For criminals to be rehabilitated and get back into society as functioning people, that is a healthy part of having a good strong society. That sounds really good and looks good when you write it out.

“And the numbers show 70 per cent of rehabilitated criminals do fit back into society. But do we treat murderers in the same way we treat a bank robber? And is housing someone in prison as a form of punishment really adequate rehabilitation?

“(Ennis) can go 25, 30 years in prison and never hurt anyone, but get no rehabilitative treatment, not see a counsellor or take any classes. He is effectively just being housed. I think we are dropping the ball a bit in that case.”

Tammy Arishenkoff, who lives in West Kelowna, is one of the survivors who Warren interviewed for the book.

She was a classmate and childhood friend of Janet Johnson and was two years older than Karen Johnson.

As an adult, she has continued the fight to keep Ennis locked up, joined in that effort by a small group of friends and Johnson relatives.

Already, she has starting to think ahead to the parole hearing next year.

Arishenkoff hopes Warren’s book will raise public awareness about the Johnson-Bentley murders and help their efforts to keep Ennis behind bars.

“If you think of it, he killed six people and has served 25 years. That is killed six people, not robbed a bank. He should never get out. He should be serving 25 years for each person he killed,” she said.

“Four years per person he killed. That is a joke.”

Warren’s book will be available at most local bookstores and online.

READ MORE: B.C.’s deadly past: Penticton shooting one of the worst massacres in provincial history

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

history

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Interior Health reports three additional COVID-19 cases in region

The number of cases in the region since the beginning of the pandemic are now at 492

Petition wants ‘aggressive dogs’ banned from Vernon-area parks

Local woman starts online petition to urge RDNO to change bylaws after reported dog attack

Interior Health continues to tackle COVID-19

IH president Susan Brown says don’t become complacent about pandemic

Cops for Kids to pedal through Vernon Saturday afternoon

Supporters are encouraged to cheer on their local RCMP participants at 3:30 p.m.

Wanted Enderby man connected to Shuswap stabbing caught in Coldstream

Alexander Boucher, 36, is charged with attempted murder linked to a stabbing in Blind Bay

3 new deaths due to COVID-19 in B.C., 139 new cases

B.C. confirms 40 ‘historic cases,’ as well

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

‘This is a very difficult sentencing’; Judge delays Okanagan manslaughter trial to next week

The courts heard Friday that Bourque “did not intend to cause harm” but that her actions were “reckless”

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

CHARTS: Beyond Metro Vancouver, COVID-19 cases in B.C. haven’t increased much recently

COVID-19 case counts outside of Metro Vancouver have been level since July

Most Read