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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.

Veronica Spryszynski

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Recent Comments


  • Guadalupe Altamira

    Great article and amazing detail on this case. I have heard of this case before in a youtube video and it was interesting reading this article since it had more information about it that was easy to read. I do disagree in the sense that Karla was just as bad as paul. It’s hard to believe for someone to put their own sister on the line for her boyfriend to enslave. As the oldest sister in my family, I could never imagine doing that to my sibling.

  • Emily Rodriguez

    This was such a tragic story to read. While there have been many star-crossed serial killer lovers, it broke my heart the moment I began to read about the betrayal Karla showed towards her sister. As an older sister myself, I cannot imagine doing anything to my younger siblings that would hurt and traumatize them in that way. I will have to say, the title felt a little misleading. I felt that more of the story was about how they didn’t wind up together, and how they turned on each other. But the author did a good job at telling this story in a way that was easy to understand.

  • Jackie Velasquez

    This article was very interesting and I will look into this case more. However, you mentioned no one has heard of her until 2012, so I would have liked to know what she is up to. Overall, this article kept me intrigued in the case and I think it is bizarre that someone would want to marry Paul considering his past. It is interesting to learn how she was wrapped around his finger and would do anything for him, yet she turned on him once they were caught.

  • Madeline Emke

    I think the article offers up a question that the readers can create their answer to based off of their beliefs and the information provided. While Paul was clearly guilty, the author never states if they believe Karla was just as guilty as Paul. As an older sibling, I can not imagine doing anything that could hurt my sibling, whether for love or not and regardless of how frustrated they made me. So, in my eyes, Karla is just as guilty as Paul, especially in the death of her sister.

  • Mohammed Hani Shaik

    Interesting article and very well written! I feel like the article is written in a way to show that Karla is less guilty and that she has committed the lesser crime and the law enforcement also certainly think so because she was given a reduced jail term of 12 years. However, I feel they were both equally guilty and deserved the same punishments! She was his partner in crime!

  • Maria Ferrer

    It is incredible what someone is willing and capable of doing just for love. What these two people did is unbelievable and immoral. Paul and Karla both deserve the same consequences for their actions. It was a bit frustrating to see that Karla’s sentence was reduced to only 12 years only. The worst thing Karla could have done and actually did was doing that to her own sister. It would have been very interesting to learn more about Paul’s background. By doing this, we might understand why he did what he did and why he was like that, but overall a very well written article.

  • Nadia Manitzas

    I would never ever put my sister in harms way, especially if it was for the sexual pleasure of a significant other… I think that Karla is just as guilty as Paul and deserved a longer sentence. In my eyes she is a monster on the loose. It doesn’t matter if she’s started a new life, she will have to live with the guilt of killing her sister and watching her ex boyfriend kill innocent girls. Overall a very interesting topic and well written!

  • Victoria Hoggard

    I think she’s just as bad and guilty as Paul is, she took part in the killing of her own sister and knew about his other rapes and murders of other women. Even though she testified against him I don’t think she should have been let out that early. It’s also horrifying both of thrm got married and she had kids.

  • Alison Morales-Aguilar

    I think the only thing I don’t agree with your article is the subtle downgrading of Homolka’s actions. I believe she is just as guilty of the Barbie and Ken crimes as Paul. I mean, what sort of older sister would offer up her sister as a new version of herself to her boyfriend, even as a “slave”? I am an older sister myself and there is no way I would ever offer up my siblings for anyone, not for anything in the world. She is a monster, no question about it. Also, she was mentioned in the Netflix documentary Don’t F With Cats which was about another crime in Canda.

  • Savannah Alcazar

    I do not understand how a woman could put herself in a situation to be a “slave” to a man. I’m sure things were much deeper than research could uncover. It would be interesting to see where Bernardo is now (in 2020) since he was eligible for parole in 2018. I don’t think Karla’s role was explained extensively besides her sisters murder in which she should have gotten a heftier sentence. .
    Had you thought about beginning the article with one of the murders to set the scene for the reader? Then introduce the killers and their relationship…
    Good read.

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