Murder of Reena Virk

Reena Virk (March 10, 1983 – November 14, 1997) was a resident of Saanich, British Columbia, Canada. Her status as a bullied murder victim attracted substantial media scrutiny in Canada.

Reena Virk
Born(1983-03-10)March 10, 1983
DisappearedNear the Craigflower Bridge, in the city of Saanich, British Columbia
DiedNovember 14, 1997 (aged 14)
Cause of deathHomicide by forcible drowning
NationalityCanadian
Parents
  • Manjit Virk (father)
  • Suman Virk (mother)

Virk was first swarmed by a group of "friends." The names of six of the girls involved in the first beating, known collectively as "the Shoreline Six," have not all been released. Following the first beating, Warren Glowatski and Kelly Marie Ellard (known as Kerry Marie Sim since 2018) drowned Virk after severely beating her. Glowatski was given a life sentence after being convicted of second-degree murder. Ellard (Sim) was tried three times. The verdict of her third trial, a conviction, was set aside. The verdict was appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada which ruled not to hold a fourth trial in an 8–1 decision, upholding the conviction and sentence.

The Globe and Mail commented at the time that her case was "elevated into a national tragedy."[1] A pair of Canadian sociologists have described the case as a watershed moment for a "moral panic" over girl violence by the Canadian public in the late 1990s.[2][3]

Reena VirkEdit

Virk's father was an immigrant from India, while her mother came from an Indo-Canadian family who had converted from Hinduism to the Jehovah's Witness religion after arriving in Canada. An article in Saturday Night described her immediate family as "a minority within a minority," as they were Jehovah's Witnesses in the local South Asian community of 3,000 which was predominantly Sikh.[4][5][6]

Virk has been described as a girl who was desperate for acceptance amongst her peers, but was taunted and/or ostracized by these girls whose subculture was influenced by Los Angeles street gangs. She had recently began to rebel due to such peer influence, smoking marijuana and cigarettes. Bullied for her weight and insecurity, she was said to feel restricted by the rules of the family's faith. In 1996, she falsely reported her father for sexual molestation in hopes of being moved to a foster home and having more freedom. As a result, she was moved from her family's home into the care of the state for several months in 1996. She later dropped the charges and returned home.[1][5][6]

MurderEdit

On the evening of Friday November 14, 1997, Reena Virk was invited to a "party" by her "friend" near the Craigflower Bridge, in the city of Saanich, British Columbia.

While at the bridge, it is claimed that teenagers drank alcohol and smoked marijuana as Virk stood among them. Virk was presently swarmed by a group later called the Shoreline Six. Witnesses said that one of the girls, Cook, stubbed out a cigarette on Virk's forehead, and that while seven or eight others stood by and watched, Virk was repeatedly hit, punched, and kicked. She was found to have several cigarette burns on her skin, and apparently attempts were made to set her hair on fire. This first beating ended when one of the girls told the others to stop.

Virk managed to walk away, but was followed by two members of the original group, Ellard and Glowatski. The pair dragged Virk to the other side of the bridge, made her remove her shoes and jacket, and beat her a second time. Ellard allegedly denied holding Virk's head under water, but admitted to rolling her beaten, unconscious body into the water at her day parole hearing on November 30, 2017.

Despite an alleged pact amongst the people involved to not "rat each other out“, by the following Monday rumors of the alleged murder spread throughout Shoreline Middle School. Reena Virk was a student at nearby Colquitz Middle School. Several uninvolved students and teachers heard the rumours, but no one came forward to report it to the police. The rumors were confirmed eight days later, on November 22, 1997, when the police used a helicopter to find Virk's partially clothed body washed ashore at the Gorge Inlet, a major waterway on Vancouver Island.

The coroner ruled the death was by drowning. An autopsy later revealed that Virk had sustained significant injury, and that the head injuries were severe enough to have killed her if she had not been drowned. Virk was 14 years old.

PerpetratorsEdit

The six female perpetrators are referred to in court documents as N.C., N.P., M.G.P., C.A.K., G.O., and K.M.E. N.C. is known to be Nicole Cook and M.G.P. is known to be Missy Grace Pleich. N.P. is Nicole Patterson, C.A.K. is Courtney Keith, and G.O. is Gail Ooms who is now deceased. Both have admitted involvement.[7] Kelly Ellard (known as Kerry Sim since 2018) is referred to in some documents as K.M.E.

One girl in this group was found to be incapable of being kept in jail due to suicide attempts. This is due to PTSD since she witnessed her father's violent death when she was a child.

Warren Paul GlowatskiEdit

Warren Glowatski was born April 26, 1981 in Medicine Hat, Alberta, was 16-years-old when Virk was murdered. He was convicted of Virk's murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Glowatski and his parents moved around frequently; he lived in Estevan, Regina, Saskatchewan, and Castlegar, British Columbia.

In 1996, when his parents separated, Glowatski and his father moved to Nanaimo, British Columbia on Vancouver Island. In 1997, they settled in a trailer home near the southern tip of the Island in Saanich.

The following year Glowatski's father married a woman he met in Las Vegas, Nevada. Glowatski decided to remain in Saanich, living alone in the trailer and supported by money sent by his father.

On the night of Virk's murder, for unknown reasons, Glowatski involved himself in the fight and twice kicked the victim in the head. When the beating ended, Glowatski and Kelly Ellard (Kerry Sim since 2018) followed Virk. According to Glowatski, Ellard smashed Virk's face into a tree knocking her out. With Glowatski's help Ellard dragged Virk into the water where Ellard drowned her.

In June 1999, Glowatski was convicted of second-degree murder and given a life sentence. Because he was 16 at the time of the murder, he was eligible for parole after serving seven years. In November 2004, he was denied his first chance at day parole.[8]

The Virks did not contest the parole, because Glowatski expressed remorse and responsibility for his part in the murder. In July 2006, he was granted unescorted temporary absences from jail. By December 2006, Glowatski was eligible to apply for day parole again, which he was granted in June 2007.[9]

During his incarceration, Glowatski discovered that he is Métis. This played a large role in parole hearings as he asked the parole board to incorporate his elders into the process and various healing circles and other forms of restorative justice were used, bringing Glowatski and Virk's parents together. In receiving day parole he proceeded to hug every member of the parole board and those present, including the Virks.[10]

Warren Glowatski was released on full parole in June 2010.[11]

Kelly Marie Ellard (Kerry Marie Sim since 2018)Edit

Kelly Ellard (born August 9, 1982), was 15 years old when she drowned Virk. Ellard stood trial three times for the murder, and was convicted twice. Her lawyers had succeeded in having her first conviction overturned on appeal, and attempted to have her second conviction overturned. However, while a 2008 decision of the BC Court of Appeals overturned the second conviction,[12] on June 12, 2009 the Supreme Court of Canada (Supreme Court), in an 8–1 decision, overturned the BC Court of Appeals, ruling that Ellard's third trial had been fairly executed, and her conviction would stand.[13]

Evidence was cited in a 2005 book about the case regarding Ellard's sociopathy and violence in middle school.[14] The reason for the absence of her birth father in her life is never revealed.

Ellard was initially convicted in March 2000 for second-degree murder in Virk's death. In February 2003, this conviction was overturned and a new trial was ordered. The second trial ended in a mistrial (as the result of a hung jury) in July 2004. A third trial was ordered and Ellard was convicted again of second-degree murder in April 2005 and given an automatic life sentence with no parole eligibility for seven years.

The BC Court of Appeals overturned the conviction based on an error by the original trial judge,[12] but the Supreme Court ruled that her conviction stands because the error by the original trial judge was "harmless".[15]

Ellard was granted conditional day parole in November 2017; in October 2018, when her day parole was extended, the documents from the Parole Board of Canada revealed that Ellard had changed her name to Kerry Marie Sim.[16]

In May 2022, the then 39-year-old Sim (Ellard) waived her right to a parole hearing, as she did not yet feel ready to return to society on a full time basis. By law, the Parole Board of Canada was still required to review her feasibility for full parole, and also deemed her unworthy of moving beyond day parole.[17]

Nicole CookEdit

Nicole Cook, born 1983, lived in a group home at the time. On MSNBC's documentary Bloodlust Under the Bridge, Cook spoke about how she took a lit cigarette and put it out on Reena Virk's face, initiating the mayhem that followed. Cook further explained how she repeatedly punched and kicked Virk as she was being pummeled by the other assailants. At the end of the MSNBC interview, Cook then lambasted the accusation that she had anything to do with Virk's actual murder because Ellard was the participant charged for the murder. Veteran Dateline reporter Keith Morrison then asked, "Would the murder have ever happened if you hadn't started the fight by burning her face with your cigarette?" and Cook replied, "I don't know. Maybe."[7]

Cook also returned to the crime scene the day after the killing, accompanied by Pleich, and retrieved Reena's shoes and sweater. They took these items back to their group home and forced another, younger resident named "Stephanie"[18] to hide them in her closet. They also forced her to make phone calls to Suman Virk, Reena's mother, while the search for Reena was still active.

Possible motivesEdit

A book about the case, Under the Bridge by Rebecca Godfrey, details some of the motives that may have led to Virk's death.[14] Two of the girls convicted in the initial beating allege that Virk stole a phone book from Nicole Cook and started calling Cook's friends and spreading rumours about her. Cook stubbed out a cigarette on Virk's forehead during the attack. Another girl, M.G.P, was allegedly targeting Reena because of her race alongside the others in the group such as Warren, who allegedlly were known to have bullied Reena allegedlly due to this racial reason. Virk once lived with the two girls in a youth group home. It is suggested she may have done those things in order to assert herself as "tough".

The book also reveals that Virk was initially considered a runaway when her mother first reported her missing to the Saanich Police Department, the police agency in which the Virks resided. The book Under the Bridge incorrectly documented the Missing Persons report as being made to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Two Russian sisters, who lived in the youth group home, were prompted to contact the police upon hearing that Virk was most likely dead.[14]

TimelineEdit

  • November 14, 1997, Reena Virk is killed
  • November 22, 1997, Reena Virk's body is found
  • February 9, 1998, three teenage girls plead guilty to assault causing bodily harm for their roles in the attack
  • February 13, 1998, three more girls are convicted of assault causing bodily harm
  • Between April and May 1998, six teenage girls are sentenced for their roles in the beating of Virk. Sentences range from 60-day conditional sentences to one year in jail
  • June 1999, Warren Glowatski, the only male involved in the crime, is convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for seven years
  • March 9, 2000, Kelly Ellard (Kerry Marie Sim since 2018) is convicted of second-degree murder in adult court, where she is sentenced to life in prison with no chance of full parole for five years
  • November 15, 2000, 3 years and 1 day after the murder of Reena Virk, her parents, Manjit and Suman Virk, sue the teenagers who took part in the beating, the BC government, and several other parties
  • February 4, 2003, the BC Court of Appeal announces that due to improprieties in the way Ellard was questioned during her first trial, a new trial would be ordered[19] It is impermissible for the crown to ask the accused why witnesses would lie about the accused.[20]
  • June 14, 2004, Ellard's second murder trial begins
  • July 18, 2004, a mistrial is declared in Ellard's second trial after the jury declares it is deadlocked 11-1[21]
  • February 21, 2005, Kelly Ellard's third trial opens
  • April 12, 2005, Ellard is found guilty of second degree murder. She is given an automatic life sentence with no parole for at least 7 years[22][23]
  • July 20, 2006, after serving nearly nine years of a life sentence, Warren Glowatski is granted unescorted temporary passes by the National Parole Board, moving him a step closer to becoming part of society. The Virk family supports the decision.[24]
  • August 9, 2006, Ellard appeals her conviction, asking for a fourth trial or an acquittal. Crown has the option to appeal, hold a fourth trial or abandon prosecution.[25][26]
  • April, 2009, Ellard's appeal goes before the Supreme Court of Canada.
  • June 12, 2009, The Supreme Court of Canada reinstates the second-degree murder conviction against Kelly Ellard, putting an end to a legal case that spanned more than a decade.[27]
  • June 23, 2010, Warren Glowatski is released on parole.
  • January 18, 2017, Ellard is denied parole.[28]
  • November 30, 2017, Ellard granted day parole
  • October 30, 2018, Ellard's day parole extended, the ruling notes that she had changed her name to Kerry Marie Sim
  • August 22, 2019, Sim (Ellard) granted overnight leaves and extended day parole.[29]

The case in popular cultureEdit

The murder case has been the subject of an award-winning and bestselling book Under the Bridge. The True Story of the Murder of Reena Virk (2005) by Rebecca Godfrey,[14][30] which is currently being developed into a feature film,[31] and partly inspired a monologue play, The Shape of a Girl (2001), by Joan MacLeod,[32] and The Beckoners by Carrie Mac. The film rights for the book Under the Bridge have been purchased by Type A Productions, a film production company, for adaptation into a movie.[33]

The murder of Reena Virk was also the subject of a thesis published in a book edited by Christine Alder and Anne Worrell titled Girls' Violence; Myths and Realities. The author of the thesis, "Racism, 'Girl Violence' and the Murder of Reena Virk", Sheila Batacharya, discusses the murder of Reena Virk from a feminist perspective and looks at why the argument from media and the police that the murder was not racially motivated may not have been entirely accurate. Batacharya also argues that the narrative of 'girl violence' which academics policy makers and journalists have asserted is evidenced by Virk's murder, obscures other investigations and explanations surrounding this murder.[34] Reena's father, Mr. Manjit Virk, has written a book about the murder of his daughter: Reena: A Father’s Story (2008), which is highly critical of the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development and the B.C. justice system; Reena was murdered under the voluntary care of the Ministry, yet no apology was given or responsibility taken.

In December 2010 and 2012, students from Walkerville High School in Windsor, Ontario performed a play based on the death of Reena Virk for members of the community, as well as the Virk parents.[35]

In May 2011, Meghan Gallagher from The Bush School in Seattle self-directed and performed The Shape of a Girl.

In 2015, Soraya Peerbaye published a series of poems dedicated to the murder of Reena Virk entitled Tell: poems for a girlhood. The book was shortlisted for the 2016 Griffin Poetry Prize.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b "Reena Virk's short life and lonely death," The Globe and Mail, 27 November 1997
  2. ^ Barron, Christie; Lacombe, Dany (1 February 2005). "Moral panic and the Nasty Girl". The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology. 42 (1): 51. ISSN 0008-4948.
  3. ^ Jiwani, Yasmin (1999-09-01). "Erasing Violence: The Story of Reena Virk". Canadian Woman Studies. 19 (3). ISSN 0713-3235.
  4. ^ "Who was Reena Virk?" 1 April 1998, Saturday Night, 15 Vol. 113, No. 3
  5. ^ a b MSNBC (May 29, 2009). "Bloodlust Under the Bridge".
  6. ^ a b Godfrey, Rebecca (25 June 2019). Under the Bridge: The True Story of the Murder of Reena Virk. Gallery Books. ISBN 978-1982123185.
  7. ^ a b Convo, David. (Producer). Morrison, Keith (correspondent). "Blood-lust Under the Bridge," Dateline NBC, Season 509, Episode 0529. Airdate: 05/29/2009. New York, NY: Peacock Productions, NBC News.
  8. ^ "Glowatski denied parole in Virk murder". CBC News. November 19, 2004. Archived from the original on May 10, 2007. Retrieved 12 December 2010.
  9. ^ "The murder of Reena Virk and trials of Kelly Ellard". CBC News. 2009-04-14. Archived from the original on April 17, 2009. Retrieved 12 December 2010.
  10. ^ "One of Virk's killers granted unescorted passes". CTV News. Victoria. Jul 19, 2006. Archived from the original on 1 August 2009. Retrieved 12 December 2010.
  11. ^ Theodore, Terry (2010-06-23). "One of Reena Virk's killers granted full parole". The Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on 2016-05-04. Retrieved 2022-05-13.
  12. ^ a b "Court orders 4th trial for Ellard in murder of Victoria teen Reena Virk". CBC News. 2008-09-05. Archived from the original on 2009-03-30. Retrieved 2022-05-13.
  13. ^ "Supreme Court restores Ellard conviction in Virk case". The Globe and Mail. 2009-06-12. Archived from the original on June 13, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-13.
  14. ^ a b c d Goldberg, Nicola Maye (26 June 2019). "Rebecca Godfrey on Small-Town Violence and the Evolution of True Crime". CrimeReads. CrimeReads. Retrieved 27 June 2019.
  15. ^ "R. v. Ellard, 2009 SCC 27, [2009] 2 S.C.R. 19". January 17, 2014.
  16. ^ "Kelly Ellard, changes name, has day parole extended". CTV News. Canadian Press. 2018-10-30. Retrieved 2022-05-13.
  17. ^ Van Reeuwyk (2022-05-12). "Christine". Victoria News. Black Press. Retrieved 2022-05-13.
  18. ^ "5 Insane Realities Inside The Foster Care System". Cracked.com. 7 June 2016. Retrieved 2018-06-06.
  19. ^ "R. v. Ellard, 2003 BCCA 68". September 5, 2008.
  20. ^ "CRIMINAL PROCEDURE, BC Law Society, Chapter 5, p 70" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-10-30. Retrieved 2008-09-06.
  21. ^ "Judge declares mistrial in Kelly Ellard case". CBC News. July 19, 2004. Archived from the original on May 10, 2007. Retrieved 2006-12-30.
  22. ^ "R. v. Ellard, 2005 BCSC 1087". July 7, 2005.
  23. ^ "3rd trial finds Kelly Ellard guilty of murder". CBC News. April 13, 2005. Archived from the original on February 27, 2007. Retrieved 2009-06-13.
  24. ^ "One of Virk's killers granted unescorted passes". 2006-07-19. Archived from the original on 2009-07-31. Retrieved 2009-06-13.
  25. ^ "Ellard conviction overturned in death of Victoria teen Reena Virk". CBC News. September 5, 2008.
  26. ^ "R. v. Ellard, 2008 BCCA 341". September 5, 2008.
  27. ^ "Ellard conviction restored in Reena Virk murder case". CBC News. June 12, 2009. Archived from the original on June 15, 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-12.
  28. ^ "Kelly Ellard, B.C. woman convicted of killing 14-year-old girl in 1997, denied parole". National Post.
  29. ^ "Reena Virk's killer Kelly Ellard has day parole extended by six months". Vancouver Sun.
  30. ^ "0002000679 - Under the Bridge: the True Story of the Murder of Reena Virk by Rebecca Godfrey - AbeBooks". www.abebooks.com. Retrieved 2018-08-29.
  31. ^ "Vancouver company joins Reese Witherspoon for film on Virk murder". 2010-04-24. Archived from the original on 2010-04-24. Retrieved 2018-06-06.
  32. ^ Canadian Theatre Encyclopedia
  33. ^ Witherspoon Goes Under the Bridge - ComingSoon.net
  34. ^ Alder. C and Worrell A [Eds.](2004) Girls Violence; Myths and Realities. Albany: State University of New York Press
  35. ^ "Windsor play strikes chord with parents of slain teen". 2010-06-15. Archived from the original on 2010-06-15. Retrieved 2018-06-06.

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