Photo of the Parole Board of Canada decision to extend day parole for Jason Cofell. (Photo by Matt Weverink)

Day parole continued for convicted triple murderer

A steady job may be the only thing preventing full parole for a man convicted of killing three people in Chatham over two decades ago.

In October 2018, the Parole Board of Canada (PBC) extended a six-month day parole release for Jason Cofell for the fifth time since he was released to a halfway house at an undisclosed location in May 2016. However, it may not be long before the 45-year-old is granted full parole after serving 25 years of a life sentence for the murders of 18-year-old Jasen Pangburn, Virginia Critchley and Alfred Critchley.

Cofell killed Pangburn after luring him to the woods in Chatham under the pretence of firing guns for target practice. He then went to the victim’s grandparents house and stabbed both of them to death. Cofell pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder in their deaths.

A psychologist told the PBC in February 2018 that Cofell is unlikely to re-offend if he is released, and would support full parole if Cofell is able to secure full-time, stable employment with a steady income.

“It is the board’s opinion that [Cofell] will not present an undue risk to society if released,” the PBC stated in its decision, adding that statistics show four out of five similar offenders will not commit an indictable offence within three years following release. “[He] is assessed as having low need for improvement in the area of personal/emotional orientation.”

Cofell is also seen to have high levels of accountability and motivation, according to the PBC, with “medium reintegration potential.”

The PBC said in its latest decision to extend his day parole that Cofell has yet to be able to secure a permanent, full-time job, which remains a concern. The PBC said while Cofell had found employment at an ice cream factory, his hours were set to be cut back due to the seasonal nature of the business. As well, Cofell is continuing his attempts to start a jewellery and leather business, but the PBC said it believes this would not generate sufficient income to maintain independent housing.

“Lack of stable employment continues to present as a barrier to support for a full parole release,” the PBC said.

In its decision, the PBC indicated that there have been no issues or concerns regarding Cofell’s behaviour while he’s been on day parole, however, the victims have also been considered due to the “immeasurable pain and suffering [the] victims have endured.”

“Victim impact statements attest to the profound manner in which the lives of secondary victims have been adversely affected,” the PBC said. “Victims speak of a pervasive sense of grief and immeasurable loss.”

While on day parole, Cofell is required to obey strict conditions, including avoiding members of the victims’ family and to continue undergoing psychological counselling. He is also not allowed to associate with anyone he knows or believes may be involved in criminal activity, and he can’t associate with anyone who is a member of the Canadian Armed Forces, except with written authorization from his parole officer. In addition to living at the designated halfway house, Cofell is permitted to spend five nights per week at his mother’s house or a satellite apartment that is on the same grounds as the halfway house.