Many parents don’t just see school as a place to send their kids in order to learn. Rather, they’ll play an active role in school life by volunteering and interacting with other students, teachers, and parents. Maintaining a good relationship with your kids’ professors and other parents is an important part of being engaged with the community, after all.

By all accounts, one mother at a private school in Montreal was the picture of perfection; she participated in events, socialized, and made a name for herself as a likable PTA mom. But when a secret about her past was revealed, it sent the entire community into a panic…

Greaves Adventist Academy in Montreal, Canada, is a small Christian school serving grades kindergarten to 11. It’s located in the Notre-Dame-de-Grace neighborhood, a region that’s well known and important among the city’s English-speaking community.

A private school, Greaves Adventist Academy accepts roughly 275 students each year. With such a relatively small number of children enrolled there, it’s easy to imagine that the students, parents, and teachers share a close bond. That’s part of what makes their community so special.

One member of this community was 47-year-old Karla Homolka, a mother of three children who all attended Greaves. Karla wasn’t only well-liked by students and fellow parents; she was one of the school’s most trusted volunteers.

This otherwise average mother was also known for being helpful and committed to the school. She even brought in the family Cocker Spaniel for show-and-tell, much to the delight of the class…

On another occasion, Karla volunteered as a chaperone on a field trip along with other parents. All told, there wasn’t much about Karla that struck anyone at Greaves as odd or dangerous. Little did they know that was all about to change…

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Karla, it seemed, had a sordid past belied by the helpful and friendly persona she showed at school. One day in March 2017, a secret was uncovered that would send Karla and her family reeling—and rock the community to its core.

That day, an anonymous man began passing out pamphlets to parents as they arrived at Greaves. Those pamphlets contained shocking information about Karla’s past. As far-fetched as the story seemed, it was all completely true, and the community flew into an outrage.

Karla was not at all the person she presented to the community. Born in Port Credit, Ontario, in 1970, she was known for her good looks and popularity. She had a bright future ahead of her, but things took a turn after attending a convention in Toronto when she was only 17.

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It was 1987, and Karla met a man at that convention named Paul Bernardo. He was 23 and handsome, and the two instantly hit it off. They began a romantic relationship, but it soon became clear that charming Paul was hiding some troubling secrets…

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Paul was a known sexual predator. He targeted girls and young women in his hometown of Scarborough, following them after they stepped off of buses and then assaulting them. By the time he met Karla, he’d already attacked no fewer than four women in this manner, each time more violently than the last.

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Any reasonable person would’ve left Paul when they found out, but Karla did the opposite. She wasn’t driven away by his sadistic crimes, but soon became an active participant in them. She and Paul drugged, raped, and killed her then-15-year-old sister. Paul eventually called the police, but told them it was an accident. Just six months later, Paul and Karla got married.

At least two more teenage girls, Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French, were killed by the couple over the course of the three years that followed, but it’s believed that there were even more victims. In January 1993, though, Karla decided to make a huge change…

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Karla wanted to leave Paul because of his domestic abuse. At the same time, police were getting closer to tracking down the “Scarborough Rapist,” so Karla approached the police and gave him up. She claimed that, while she was involved in many of the crimes, she was pressured into participating by her abusive husband.

The police offered Karla a plea bargain, and she spent 12 years in prison for manslaughter. It was only later when video evidence was produced that Karla’s involvement in the crimes became indisputable. Still, she had the protection of the plea bargain to shield her from further prosecution.

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Karla was released from prison as scheduled in 2005, amid a sea of controversy. She moved to Quebec and remarried Thierry Bordelais, the brother of her defense lawyer. They had three children, and they left the country two years later to escape public scrutiny.

Karla couldn’t escape her past, though, and it all caught up with her the day that man appeared at Greaves. Parents were incensed when they learned that Karla was a convicted felon, let alone a serial killer.

“It’s really unacceptable,” said one Greaves mother named Stephanie Deligne. “My daughter was playing with the dog of Karla Homolka, and I was right next to her, but I didn’t know who she was.”

Despite parental blowback, the school defended their position. A spokesperson for Greaves said that Karla Homolka was not a regular volunteer at the school and was never allowed to interact with students without supervision.

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Some experts are concerned that Karla may still be dangerous. One lawyer who had represented the Mahaffy and French families who lost their loved ones to Karla and Paul expressed concerns that she may not have been fully rehabilitated yet.

Still, other parents remain worried, and it’s difficult to blame them. “We don’t want her here,” said one guardian in an interview. “How would you feel knowing that your child is interacting in person with a serial killer? It’s not right.”

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Karla may be a different person now, but it’s hard to imagine how you’d react if you found out that someone with a past like hers was visiting your child’s school. Hopefully, the school continues to support the best interests of its students and the community finds balance.

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