StMU Research Scholars

Featuring Scholarly Research, Writing, and Media at St. Mary’s University

December 9, 2017

Ken and Barbie Partners in Crime: Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka

Could you love somebody so much that you would kill for them? Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka did. Since the first time they met, they knew they were meant for each other. Once kindled, their lustful relationship grew into one that led them deeper into sexual experimentation. They both had manipulative personalities, but Paul’s would eventually overpower Karla’s. Their fantasies grew stronger, and then family and friends began dying at the hands of these two, Paul and Karla. They thought they were smart enough to get away with it, but soon enough, all their dreams of an escape came crashing down.

Karla was born in Ontario, Canada on May 4, 1970. She was the eldest of three, and grew to be smart, popular, pretty, and well-loved by her friends and family. Karla pursued a job at a veterinary clinic. She adored animals. While at a pet convention in Toronto, she met her prince charming, Paul Bernardo, at just age seventeen. And Paul was twenty-three. The relationship between the two rapidly advanced. They both clicked instantly, sharing pathological desires in their sex life, binding them closer. This led to quirky foreplay, where Paul played the master and Karla the slave.1

Karla and her husband, Paul Bernardo | Courtesy of

Paul loved the feeling of dominating women. And Karla was wrapped around so tightly on his finger that she would do anything to please him. Bernardo often complained that when he met her, she was not a virgin. Karla, willing to satisfy Paul’s needs, offered her younger sister Tammy as a sex sacrifice to him because Tammy was still a virgin. Both planned to force Tammy into being a younger and purer version of Karla. To do this, Karla stole an animal anesthetic from her workplace for later use. On December 23, 1990, at a Christmas party at their home, the couple drugged Tammy’s drink with halcyon, and soon took her down into the basement. Karla pulled out the animal anesthetic and drenched a cloth with it to cover Tammy’s mouth, and knock her unconscious. Bernardo raped her, but Tammy unexpectedly began gagging on her own vomit and suddenly died. When her death was officially declared, it was labeled as an accidental death, as the drugs in her body went undetected.2

Paul continued his killings in the Scarborough suburbs of Toronto. He raped women and then murdered them. Some women fortunately escaped with only an attempted rape. No one could pin down who was committing these crimes. So this mysterious figure became known as the Scarborough Rapist. He usually attacked females outdoors, but occasionally he would break into their homes and severely beat them along with strong verbal harassment. Soon, the Metropolitan Toronto Police created an investigation to capture and arrest the Scarborough Rapist. It was only a month later that the Forensic Science Center matched Bernardo’s DNA with the Scarborough Rapist.3

Karla Homolka | Courtesy of

A search of Bernardo’s home revealed numerous tape recordings of the rapes upon the women. Lots of the tapes showed the women being strangled and killed by Paul by their end. Karla decided to testify against Bernardo, and in return was to be granted a reduced sentence. Karla was interrogated for four days. She blamed Paul for her sister Tammy’s death, and described many of Paul’s kidnappings and rapes that resulted in women’s deaths. Two victims during the reign of the Scarborough Rapist were two schoolgirls Mahaffy and Kristen. Karla accused Paul of committing these crimes, and her accounts were later found to be true by forensic evidence. She said she lived in terror of Paul and was forced by him to partake in his crimes. On February 17, Bernardo was arrested and brought to the Toronto detention center where he awaited trial. At his trial, he was charged with first degree murder, found guilty, and subsequently sentenced to life in prison with possibility of parole in twenty-five years. Karla was sentenced to only twelve years in prison.4

Karla’s bruised face caused by Paul’s abuse | Courtesy of

Now what did the future hold for these two who eventually turned on each other? As for Paul, he will be eligible for parole in 2018 at the age of fifty. But surprising news has surfaced, Paul is planning to get married while serving his term! Apparently a woman from London, Ontario, who requested to remain anonymous, has been charmed by this “innocent” man. She has said to her friends that Bernardo was just a bystander to the rapes and murders of the two schoolgirls. She was so determined to wed this convicted killer that she tattooed one of her ankles “Paul’s girl.” On the other hand, the woman’s father rejects her plans and says he hopes she will abandon this ill-thought idea. Many other news reporters and even the lawyers who represented Kristen and Mahaffy have all commented on how appalling they found it to be for anyone wanting to wed a man after his horrific crimes.5

As for Karla Homolka, she was released in 2005 after a short twelve year sentence. She thereafter resided in Quebec and married Thierry Bordelais, gave birth to a son, and later had two other children. She was found volunteering at an elementary school in Montreal. Breakfast Television Montreal has confirmed that she often went to the elementary school where her children also attend. Many parents of other children were displeased to see this, and red flags were raised. Parents commented that they did not want her to be on the school’s property and that they believed it wasn’t right for a former serial killer to be around children, especially volunteering. Disturbed parents complained to the school, but they weren’t answered until the Quebec Conference of Seventh-day Adventists sent out a letter. They stated that their priority was to provide quality education to the students and that while they arrange the complaints from the parents, they encourage parents to communicate with the Quebec Conference Office of Education. They also say that they were aware of who Karla is and that it is the law for Canada to conduct background checks on any personnel associated with the school. Karla, tired of the social media, moved away in the year 2007. Nobody heard of her again until a journalist, Paula Todd, came across her in Guadeloupe in 2012.6

  1. Charles Montaldo, “The Crimes of Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo,” ThoughtCo., (May 2017).
  2. Charles Montaldo, “The Crimes of Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo,” ThoughtCo., (May 2017).
  3. Historica Canada: The Canadian Encyclopedia, June 2016, s.v., “Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka Case,” by Edward Butts.
  4. Nick Pron, Lethal Marriage: The Unspeakable Crimes of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka (Canada: McClelland-Bantam Inc., 1995), 9-16.
  5. Irene Ogrodnik, “Convicted killer Paul Bernardo set to marry: report.” Global News, July 4, 2014. Accessed December 6, 2017.
  6. Fazioli, Domenic. “EXCLUSIVE: Karla Homolka occasionally volunteers at Montreal elementary school.” CityNews, May 26, 2017.

Tags from the story

Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka

Scarborough Rapist

Recent Comments

Christopher Hohman

Nice article. These two committed some horrific crimes together. Paul was definitely the mastermind behind everything. I do not think that Paul should ever be granted parole, he should spend the rest of his life in prison for what he did. To think that there is someone who wants to marry him now is just terrible. It would not surprise me if there was some sort of manipulation in their relationship. I’m not sure that I would want Karla working at my children’s school either.



11:03 am

Mariah Cavanaugh

This is one of the first true crime stories I remember hearing when I was younger. The particular case raises a compelling query. Obviously, Karla was a battered woman, but she played a rather large part in the crimes including the murder of her own sister. Was her sentence long enough? The fact that she was released early and is now a mother to two children is horrifying.



11:03 am

Tala Owens

This story is just simply horrifying. Even from the story of their first victim my jaw dropped. To be able to do that to your own sister just for a man. These two were horrible and the fact that Karla never said a word until she was going to receive potential jail time really says something. These two should have been in jail for as long as possible but they seem to be free, one with a potential wife waiting for him. It doesn’t seem completely fair to the victims.



11:03 am

Hali Garcia

Oh wow I just saw a documentary about them this weekend. It is absolutely sickening what they did to Karla’s sister and I personally do not think her sentence was long enough. Even though she did not commit the murders herself she did have a role and because of that I think she should have had a longer sentence. The parents at the school had a right to be concerned, and it surprises me that she has children too.



11:03 am

Engelbert Madrid

I’m shocked to read about how one sister would help her rapist husband to take advantage of her own sister, so that he can be satisfied. Unfortunately, Karla’s young sister died after choking on her own vomit as she laid unconscious, and it’s sad to know a sibling could play a large role in the murder of her own sister. Furthermore, she helped her husband in other rape crimes that he committed, and that is something that is horrifying to know.



11:03 am

Kathryn Martinez

It almost amazes me at the fact that Karla served such a short term when she purposefully helped a man to rape and murder her own sister. She even had the nerve to say that it was an “accident” and she didn’t know that her sister would choke on her own vomit. What would have become of Karla if her sister had lived? Would she have stopped if she had seen the effects on her own flesh and blood? Or perhaps would she have dug deeper into crime? It’s all sickening, to say the least.



11:03 am

Nelly Perez

I had never heard of this true-crime story until now. This was a crazy read. I can understand why the parents are terrified of a killer, but she did whatever she could to please her lover since she was seventeen. Anything can run through the mind of a seventeen-year-old person. What disgusted me was not only the age gap but the fact that she didn’t think anything bad of her boyfriend having sex with her sister without consent only to be considered as rape. She could have left him, but at the same time, she would be an accomplice in a way since she knew that he was causing all of the rape and murder cases.



11:03 am

Vanessa Quetzeri

This is a very saddening story, not only because of the murders involved, but because Karla Homolka was released from prison so soon. I do not deny that she was a battered housewife, but she volunteered her own sister to fulfill Paul Bernardo’s sexual desires. Homolka knowing what she did, got away with accompanying multiple murders and only confessing after her husband was caught.



11:03 am

Stephanie Cerda

I understand the concern the parents feel from seeing Karla around their children. It’s hard to think someone would support a rapist and killer, and also help him. She was young, but I do thin she knew what she was doing, and as shown by her testifying against Paul, she knew the consequences as well. However, I do feel like this article focuses more on her than on Paul Bernando, the real abuser and murderer. I looked it up, and Bernando was denied his parole.



11:03 am

Amelia Hew

Despite Karla stated that she was forced by Paul to help him, I think that she was too be responsible for what the two of them done. I thought that she would have a heavier punishment, I never thought after she was sentenced to 12 years of prison, she got out married a man and even have children. If she had stopped Paul at the beginning, perhaps none of these might happened. What kind of big sister is she? Letting her lover rape her very own sister and even ended up killing her. It’s scary on how a manipulative lover can cause a normal person to become a psychopath.



11:03 am

1 2 3 4 7

Leave a Reply