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Karla Leanne Homolka
May 4, 1970
Port Credit, Ontario, Canada
|Other names||Leanne Teale, Karla Leanne Teale, Leanne Bordelais, Emily Bordelais|
|Criminal status||Unconditionally released July 4, 2005|
(m. 1991; div. 1994)
|Children||3 (second marriage)|
|Penalty||12 years imprisonment|
Span of crimes
|December 24, 1990 – April 19, 1992|
Karla Leanne Homolka (born May 4, 1970), also known as Leanne Teale, is a Canadian serial killer who, with her first husband Paul Bernardo, raped and murdered at least three minors. She attracted worldwide media attention when she was convicted of manslaughter following a plea bargain in the 1991 and 1992 rape-murders of two Ontario teenage girls, Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French, as well as the rape and death of her sister Tammy.
Homolka and Bernardo were arrested in 1993. In 1995, Bernardo was convicted of the two teenagers' murders and received life in prison and a dangerous offender designation, the full maximum sentence allowed in Canada. During the 1993 investigation, Homolka stated to investigators that Bernardo had abused her and that she had been an unwilling accomplice to the murders. As a result, she struck a deal with prosecutors for a reduced prison sentence of 12 years in exchange for a guilty plea to the charge of manslaughter. Homolka scored 5/40 on the Psychopathy Checklist, in contrast to Bernardo's 35/40.
However, videotapes of the crimes surfaced after the plea bargain and demonstrated that she was a more active participant than she had claimed. As a result, the deal that she had struck with prosecutors was dubbed in the Canadian press the "Deal with the Devil". Public outrage about Homolka's plea deal continued until her high-profile release from prison in 2005.
Following her release from prison, she settled in the province of Quebec, where she married again. She briefly lived in the Antilles and Guadeloupe but by 2014 was back in Canada and living in Quebec.
- 1 Victims
- 2 Aftermath
- 3 Trial
- 4 Appeal and inquest
- 5 Prison
- 6 Release
- 7 Freedom and relocation to Guadeloupe; subsequent return to Canada
- 8 Possibility of pardon
- 9 In popular culture
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 Further reading
- 13 External links
During the summer of 1990, according to Karla, Bernardo became attracted to her younger sister, Tammy Homolka. Homolka hatched a plan to frame Bernardo for drugging Tammy, seeing an opportunity to "minimise risk, take control, and keep it all in the family." In July, "according to Bernardo's testimony, he and Karla served Tammy a spaghetti dinner spiked with Valium stolen from Karla's workplace. Bernardo raped Tammy for about a minute before she started to wake up."
Homolka later stole the anesthetic agent halothane from the Martindale Veterinarian Clinic where she worked. On December 23, 1990, after a Homolka family Christmas party, Bernardo and Karla Homolka drugged Tammy Homolka with the animal tranquilizers. Bernardo and Karla Homolka raped Tammy while she was unconscious. Tammy later choked on her own vomit and died. Before calling 911, they hid the evidence, redressed Tammy, who had a chemical burn on her face, and moved her into her basement bedroom. A few hours later, Tammy was pronounced dead at St. Catharines General Hospital without having regained consciousness. Bernardo told police he tried to revive her, but failed, and her death was ruled an accident.
The Crown had applied for the ban imposed on July 5, 1993, by Mr. Justice Francis Kovacs of the Ontario Court (General Division). Homolka, through her lawyers, supported the ban, whereas Bernardo's lawyers argued that he would be prejudiced by the ban since Homolka previously had been portrayed as his victim. Four media outlets and one author also opposed the application. Some lawyers argued that rumours could be doing more damage to the future trial process than the publication of the actual evidence.
Public access to the Internet effectively nullified the court's order, however; as did proximity to the Canada–US border, since a publication ban by an Ontario Court cannot apply in New York, Michigan, or anywhere else outside of Ontario. American journalists cited the First Amendment in editorials and published details of Homolka's testimony, which were widely distributed by many Internet sources, primarily on the alt.fan.karla-homolka Usenet newsgroup. Information and rumours spread across myriad electronic networks available to anyone in Canada with a computer and a modem. Moreover, many of the Internet rumours went beyond the known details of the case.
Newspapers in Buffalo, Detroit, Washington, New York City and even Britain, together with border radio and television stations, reported details gleaned from sources at Homolka's trial. The syndicated series A Current Affair aired two programs on the crimes. Canadians bootlegged copies of The Buffalo Evening News across the border, prompting orders to the Niagara Regional Police Service to arrest all those with more than one copy at the border. Extra copies were confiscated. Copies of other newspapers, including The New York Times, were either turned back at the border or were not accepted by distributors in Ontario. Gordon Domm, a retired police officer who defied the publication ban by distributing details from the foreign media, was charged and convicted of disobeying a lawful court order.
Plea bargain controversy
Jamie Cameron, Professor of Law at Osgoode Hall, noted that "at the time of the Homolka trial, three features of the case worried and concerned the public. Little was known about the respective roles Homolka and Bernardo played in their actions and the killing of their victims. By spring, 1993, it was clear that the Crown's case against Bernardo depended on Homolka's evidence. In simple terms, to secure a conviction against him, her story had to be believed. Yet on no view of the facts then known could she be exculpated; by casting her as a victim of his predatory behaviour, her responsibility for the crimes that were committed could be diminished and her credibility as a witness preserved."
On May 18, 1993, Homolka was arraigned on two counts of manslaughter. Bernardo was charged with two counts each of kidnapping, unlawful confinement, aggravated sexual assault and first-degree murder as well as one of dismemberment. Coincidentally, that day Bernardo's original lawyer, Ken Murray, first watched the rape videotapes. Murray decided to hold onto the tapes and use them to impeach Homolka on the stand during Bernardo's trial. Neither Murray nor Carolyn MacDonald, the other lawyer on the defence team, were deeply experienced in criminal law and it was only over time that their ethical dilemma showed itself also to be a potentially criminal matter, for they were withholding evidence. By October 1993, he and his law partners had studied over 4,000 documents from the Crown. Murray has said he was willing to hand over the tapes to the Crown if they had let him cross-examine Homolka in the anticipated preliminary hearing. The hearing was never held.
Homolka was tried on June 28, 1993, though the publication ban the court had imposed limited the details released to the public, who were barred from the proceedings.
Murray said the videotapes showed Homolka sexually assaulting four female victims, having sex with a female prostitute in Atlantic City, and at another point, drugging an unconscious victim. In February 1994, Homolka divorced Bernardo.
During the summer of 1994, Murray had become concerned about serious ethical problems that had arisen in connection with the tapes and his continued representation of Bernardo. He consulted his own lawyer, Austin Cooper, who asked the Law Society of Upper Canada's professional-conduct committee for advice.
"The law society directed Murray in writing to seal the tapes in a package and turn them over to the judge presiding at Bernardo's trial. The law society further directed him to remove himself as Bernardo's counsel and to tell Bernardo what he had been instructed to do," Murray said in a statement released through Cooper in September 1995.
On September 12, 1994, Cooper attended Bernardo's trial and advised Justice Patrick LeSage of the Ontario Court's General Division, lawyer John Rosen, who replaced Murray as Bernardo's defence counsel, and the prosecutors about what the law society had directed Murray to do. Rosen argued that the tapes should have been turned over to the defence first. Murray handed the tapes, along with a detailed summary, to Rosen, who "kept the tapes for about two weeks and then decided to turn them over to the prosecution."
The revelation that a key piece of evidence had been kept from police for so long created a furor, especially when the public realized that Homolka had been Bernardo's willing accomplice. The tapes were not allowed to be shown to the spectators; only the audio portion was available to them. Moreover, Bernardo has always claimed that, while he raped and tortured Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French, Homolka actually killed them.
After the videotapes had been found, rumours spread that Homolka was an active participant of the crimes. The public grew incensed as the full extent of Homolka's role in the case was finally exposed and the plea agreement now seemed unnecessary. However, as was provided in the plea bargain, Homolka had already disclosed sufficient information to the police and the Crown found no grounds to break the agreement and reopen the case.
Appeal and inquest
Homolka's plea bargain had been offered before the contents of the videotapes were available for review. Anne McGillivray, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Manitoba, explained the continuing public antagonism against Homolka: There was widespread belief that she had known where the videotapes were hidden, that she wilfully concealed the Jane Doe incidents and, most centrally, that her claims of being under Bernardo's control – a central tenet of the plea bargain – were dubious. Speculation was fed by a publicity ban on the plea bargain which stood until Bernardo's trial.
"Print and website sources imagined demonic duos, vampirism, Barbie and Ken perfect-couple perfect murderers [sic], sexy 'Killer Karla', the comic 'Karla's Web' featuring Homolka's psy [sic] confessions. The gaze centres, always, on Homolka (italics added).... That [Bernardo] would be incarcerated for his mortal lifespan seemed a foregone conclusion. Homolka, in the popular view, should have taken her seat beside him in the prisoner's box and seat of ultimate evil.... Homolka promised full disclosure and testimony against Bernardo in return for reduced charges... and a joint sentencing recommendation. In so doing, she escaped central blame for the deaths."
Although the contents of the videotapes would likely have led to a conviction of murder for Homolka, an inquiry into the conduct of the prosecutors who had made the plea bargain found their behaviour "professional and responsible" and the "resolution agreement" that they had established with Homolka "unassailable" under the Criminal Code. Judge Patrick T. Galligan, reporting to the Attorney General on the matter, indicated that in his opinion "the Crown had no alternative but to ...[negotiate with the accomplice] in this case" as "the 'lesser of two evils' to deal with an accomplice rather than to be left in a situation where a violent and dangerous offender cannot be prosecuted."
In December 2001, Canadian authorities determined that there was no possible future use of the videotapes. The six videotapes depicting the torture and rape of Bernardo's and Homolka's victims were destroyed. The disposition of the tapes of Homolka watching and commenting on the tapes remains sealed.
After her 1995 testimony against Bernardo, when Homolka returned to Kingston's Prison For Women, her mother started to suffer annual breakdowns between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The collapses were severe enough that she was hospitalized, sometimes for months at a time. Homolka was moved from Kingston in the summer of 1997 to Joliette Institution (a medium security prison in Joliette, Quebec, 80 km northeast of Montreal), a facility called "Club Fed" by its critics.
In 1999, Toronto Star reporter Michelle Shephard came into possession of copies of her application to transfer to the Maison Thérèse-Casgrain, run by the Elizabeth Fry Society, and published the story noting the halfway house's proximity to local schools, hours before the Canadian courts issued a publication ban on the information. Homolka sued the government after her transfer to a Montreal halfway house was denied.
Before her imprisonment, Homolka had been evaluated by numerous psychiatrists, psychologists, and other mental health and court officials. Homolka, reported one, "remains something of a diagnostic mystery. Despite her ability to present herself very well, there is a moral vacuity in her which is difficult, if not impossible, to explain." As Homolka proceeded through the Canadian prison system there were frequent flashes that illuminated this perception.
In Joliette, Homolka had a sexual affair with Lynda Véronneau, who was serving time for a series of armed robberies and who reoffended so that she could be sent back to Joliette to be with Homolka, according to the Montreal Gazette. Her letters to Véronneau, wrote Christie Blatchford in her column in The Globe and Mail, were "in French and on the same sort of childish, puppy-dog-decorated paper she once wrote to her former husband... the same kind of girlish love notes she sent to him." Her language, Blatchford noted, was "equally juvenile".
While being evaluated in 2000, Homolka told psychiatrist Robin Menzies that she did not consider the relationship to be homosexual, as Véronneau "'saw herself as a man and planned to undergo a sex operation in due course,' the psychiatrist wrote." Psychiatrist Louis Morisette, meanwhile, noted in his report that Homolka "was ashamed of the relationship and hid it from her parents and the experts who examined her. The psychiatrist mentions in his report that under the circumstances, the relationship was not abnormal."
Again, it demonstrated Blatchford's observation that "what is particularly compelling – and telling – is how radically different are the faces she presents" to each audience. Her former veterinary clinic co-worker and friend, Wendy Lutczyn, the Toronto Sun declared, "now believes Homolka's actions were those of a psychopath, not of an abused, controlled woman". Homolka, Lutczyn said, had promised "she would explain herself", yet though the women exchanged "a series of letters while Homolka was... waiting to testify at Bernardo's trial" and after she had completed her testimony, Homolka never did try to explain to Lutczyn "why she did what she did".
On January 11, 2008, the Canadian Press reported that letters written by Homolka to Lutczyn had been pulled from eBay, where they had reached $1,600 with a week to go. Lutczyn said she did not want them any more.
In a letter of apology to her family, she continued to blame Bernardo for all her misdeeds: "He wanted me to get sleeping pills from work... threatened me and physically and emotionally abused me when I refused... I tried so hard to save her." Tim Danson, lawyer for the victims' families, has said that she has never apologized to them.
Homolka took correspondence courses in sociology through nearby Queen's University which initially caused a media storm. Homolka was required to pay all fees, as well as her personal needs, from her fortnightly income of about $69, although, she told author Stephen Williams in a subsequent letter, "I did get some financial assistance". Homolka later graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Queen's. News of Homolka's self-improvement courses was greeted in the media with disdain: "Nothing has changed. Concepts of remorse, repentance, shame, responsibility and atonement have no place in the universe of Karla. Perhaps she simply lacks the moral gene," wrote another Globe columnist, Margaret Wente.
The complexities and challenges of completing behavioural studies of women who are suspected of having psychopathic traits have been noted in the forensic literature. The various different masks that the female psychopathic killer displays at different times often have more to do with the audience and the manipulation at that moment that will benefit the individual wearing the mask than the true nature of the individual wearing the mask.
Dr. Graham Glancy, a forensic psychiatrist hired by Bernardo's chief defence lawyer, John Rosen, had offered an alternative theory to explain Homolka's behaviour, noted Williams in Invisible Darkness, his first book on the case. "She appears to be a classic example of hybristophilia, an individual who is sexually aroused by a partner's violent sexual behaviour, Dr. Glancy suggested."
Williams, who wrote Invisible Darkness, later reversed his opinion about her and began corresponding with her. This formed the basis for his second book, Karla – a Pact with the Devil. In her letters Homolka also disparaged a number of the professionals who had examined her and said she did not care "what conditions I would receive upon release. I would spend three hours a day standing on my head should that be required." Upon her release Homolka vigorously fought a string of conditions imposed upon her by a court (see Post-Prison, below).
Homolka participated in every treatment program recommended by prison authorities, until she was asked to participate in a program that had been designed for male sex offenders. She refused, on the grounds that she was neither male nor a convicted sex offender.
During Homolka's release hearing (under section 810.2 of the Criminal Code), Morrisette said the then-35-year-old did not represent a threat to society. Various hearings over the years have left a mixture of opinions. If she posed any kind of danger, said Dr. Hubert Van Gijseghem, a forensic psychologist for Correctional Services Canada, it lay in the ominous but not unlikely possibility of her linking up with another sexual sadist like Bernardo. "She is very attracted to this world of sexual psychopaths. It's not for nothing that she did what she did with Bernardo," he told the National Post after reviewing her file. A scheduled newspaper interview with Homolka was quashed by her lawyer. It was not just the facts of the case that shredded Homolka's cloak of victimization. Her demeanour on the witness stand had been at times "indifferent, haughty and irritable".
Where other inmates might apply for parole at the first opportunity, Homolka refrained from doing so. "Because she was deemed a risk to reoffend, she was denied statutory release two-thirds of the way through her sentence," Maclean's reported in explaining what had exempted Homolka from the parole restrictions meant to ease an offender's integration into mainstream society. In 2004, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation noted that "The National Parole Board has ruled that Karla Homolka must stay in prison for her full sentence, warning that she remains a risk to commit another violent crime." While the NPB noted that she had made some progress toward rehabilitation it expressed concern that Homolka had begun corresponding with a convicted murderer whom she had met when they were both being held in different parts of a prison handling unit in Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines, Quebec. As a result it decided to keep her in prison. The Toronto Sun reported that Homolka had had sex in prison with "a male inmate she now wants to marry, a former cell pal says."
According to former inmate and Homolka confidante Chantel Meuneer, the Sun reported, Homolka and the inmate stripped at a flimsy fence, touched one another sexually and exchanged underwear. At the same time, Meuneer told the Sun, Homolka was still in a same sex relationship with Lynda Véronneau, who had spent $3,000 on her at Victoria's Secret. The NPB reprimanded Homolka: "you have secretly undertaken an emotional relationship with another inmate, and evidence gathered seems to indicate that this relationship rapidly became sexual," the panel stated. On December 6, 2001, only seven days before Homolka dumped Véronneau, Meuneer said she asked Homolka why she continued her lesbian relationship while being in love with a man. Meuneer recalls Homolka saying, "I don't let go right now because I want my clothes and I want my computer."
According to the Sun, Meuneer later began living with Véronneau. Véronneau, together with writer Christiane Desjardins, wrote Lynda Véronneau: Dans L'Ombre de Karla, published in 2005 by Les Éditions Voix Parallèles.
Homolka gave her the incentive to finish her schooling, Véronneau said. Véronneau, who identified as a man and was scheduled to undergo gender reassignment surgery, said Homolka "liked to be tied up, something that disturbed Véronneau, who was serving a sentence for robbery. She said one game seemed to simulate rape," the Post reported. This article, along with numerous others, whipped up public opinion as the date of Homolka's release neared. A rumour that Homolka intended to settle in Alberta caused an uproar in that province. Maclean's weighed in with a series of possible scenarios: "The most educated speculation has Homolka staying in Quebec, where language and cultural differences supposedly muted the media coverage of her case, and where she'll be less recognizable. Another rumour suggests she will flee overseas, restarting in a country where her case is unknown. Or sneak into the United States, using an illegal identity to cross the border and living out her life under a pseudonym."
Michael Bryant, Ontario's Attorney General fought to get Homolka on the agenda at a meeting of Canada's justice ministers. "He wants the federal government to expand the category of dangerous offenders to 'catch those slipping between the cracks.'" "Bilingual and armed with a bachelor's degree in psychology from Queen's University, Homolka may choose to try to live a quiet life in Quebec, where her crimes are not as well known as they are in English-speaking Canada," reported CTV in May 2005.
On June 2, 2005, the network said, "the Ontario Crown will ask a Quebec judge to impose conditions under Section 810 of Criminal Code on Homolka's release." "The French and Mahaffy families want even tighter restrictions on Homolka, including asking that she submit to electronic monitoring or yearly psychological and psychiatric assessment," CTV said. These conditions are not allowed under Section 810 because they cross the line between preventive justice versus punitive measures, but "that's why [Toronto lawyer Tim Danson, acting on their behalf] believes the families want the government to amend the Section."
A two-day hearing was held before Judge Jean R. Beaulieu in June 2005. He ruled that Homolka, upon her release on July 4, 2005, would still pose a risk to the public-at-large. As a result, using section 810.2 of the Criminal Code, certain restrictions were placed on Homolka as a condition of her release:
- She was to tell police her home address, work address and with whom she lives.
- She was required to notify police as soon as any of the above changed.
- She was likewise required to notify police of any change to her name.
- If she planned to be away from her home for more than 48 hours, she had to give 72 hours' notice.
- She could not contact Paul Bernardo, the families of Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French or that of the woman known as Jane Doe (see above), or any violent criminals.
- She was forbidden to be with people under the age of 16.
- She was forbidden from consuming drugs other than prescription medicine.
- She was required to continue therapy and counselling.
- She was required to provide police with a DNA sample.
There was a penalty of a maximum two-year prison term for violating such an order. While this reassured the public that Homolka would find it difficult to offend again, it was felt by the court that it might be detrimental to her as well, because public hostility and her high profile might endanger her upon release.
On July 4, 2005, Homolka was released from Ste-Anne-des-Plaines prison. She granted her first interview to Radio-Canada television, speaking entirely in French. Homolka told interviewer Joyce Napier that she chose Radio Canada because she had found it to be less sensationalist than the English-language media. She said that she had likewise found Quebec to be more accepting of her than Ontario. She affirmed that she would be living within the province but refused to say where. She said she had paid her debt to society legally, but not emotionally or socially. She refused to speak about her alleged relationship with Jean-Paul Gerbet, a convicted murderer serving a life sentence at Ste-Anne-des-Plaines. During the interview, her solicitor, Sylvie Bordelais, sat beside Homolka; however, she did not speak. Homolka's mother was also present but off-screen, and was acknowledged by Homolka.
Freedom and relocation to Guadeloupe; subsequent return to Canada
The national media reported in July 2005 that Homolka had relocated to the Island of Montreal. On August 21, 2005, Le Courrier du Sud reported that she had been sighted in the South Shore community of Longueuil, across the St. Lawrence River from Montreal.
On November 30, 2005, Quebec Superior Court Judge James Brunton lifted all restrictions imposed on Homolka, saying there was not enough evidence to justify them. On December 6, 2005, the Quebec Court of Appeal upheld Brunton's decision. The Quebec Justice Department decided not to take the case to the Supreme Court, despite Ontario's urging.
TVA reported on June 8, 2006 that Homolka's request to have her name changed was rejected. She had attempted to change her name legally to Emily Chiara Tremblay (Tremblay being one of the most common surnames in Quebec).
Sun Media reported in 2007 that Homolka had given birth to a baby boy. Quebec Children's Aid said that despite Homolka's past, the new mother would not automatically be scrutinized. Several nurses had refused to care for Homolka before she gave birth. On December 14, 2007, CityNews reported that Homolka had left Canada for the Antilles so that her then one-year-old could lead a "more normal life."
A poll of 9,521 voters concluded that 63.27% believed that the public had the right to know Homolka's location, 18.57% of voters believed that she deserved anonymity, and 18.16% believed that Homolka should be permitted to receive anonymity in about 50 years.
News reports as of April 20, 2016 placed Homolka as living with her children in Châteauguay, Quebec. Homolka was reportedly angry with reporters' attempts to speak with her. Parents of children attending the same school as Homolka's children expressed great concern, despite reassurances from the school and the school board.
Possibility of pardon
On April 19, 2010, The Vancouver Sun reported that Homolka would be eligible to seek pardon for her crimes in the summer of 2010.[needs update] Offenders convicted of first- or second-degree murder or with indeterminate sentences cannot apply for a pardon due to the fact that their sentences are for life, but Homolka was convicted of manslaughter, and received less than the maximum life sentence, making her eligible. If she is successful her criminal record will not be erased but will be covered up in background checks, except those required for working with children or other vulnerable persons. The Canadian government introduced legislation later in the year to make pardons more difficult to get. On June 16, 2010, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said an agreement had been reached between all federal parties to pass a bill that would prevent notorious offenders like Karla Homolka from obtaining a pardon.
In popular culture
In 1997, Lynn Crosbie, Canadian poet, novelist and cultural critic, published Paul's Case, termed a "theoretical fiction". After systematically analyzing the couple's crimes, it provided an examination of the cultural effects of the shocking revelations and controversy surrounding their trial.
In 2004, Quantum Entertainment released the film Karla (which had the working title Deadly), starring Laura Prepon as Homolka and Misha Collins as Bernardo. Tim Danson, lawyer for the French and Mahaffy families, was given a private screening, and announced that the families had no objection to the film's release. Nevertheless, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty called for a boycott. The film was given a limited release in Canada by Christal Films.
An episode of Murder Made Me Famous on the Reelz Television Network, airing December 8, 2018, chronicled the case.
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- Williams, Stephen (2004). Karla: A Pact with the Devil. Seal Books. ISBN 0-7704-2962-9.
- Pron, Nick (2005). Lethal Marriage: The Uncensored Truth Behind the Crimes of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka. Toronto: Seal Books. ISBN 0-7704-2936-X.
- Scott Burnside; Cairns, Alan (1995). Deadly innocence. New York: Warner Books. ISBN 0-446-60154-3.
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- Pron, Nick (2005). Lethal Marriage (Updated Edition): The Uncensored Truth Behind the Crimes of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka. Seal. ISBN 0-7704-2936-X.
- Williams, Stephen Joseph (1998). Invisible darkness: the strange case of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka. New York: Bantam Books. ISBN 0-553-56854-X.
- Peter Vronsky: "Female Serial Killers: How and Why Women Become Monsters", Berkley Books, New York (2007), p. 328,368 ff.
- Todd, Paula (June 18, 2012). Finding Karla: How I Tracked Down an Elusive Serial Killer and Discovered a Mother of Three.