In the fall of 1989, Darren Huenemann decided that he wanted to be thatvery rich young man now. The book, Such A Good Boy: How A Pampered Son’s Greed Led to Murder,written by Lisa Hobbs Birnie, starts out with a profile of the charactersinvolved in the brutal tale. First is Doris Kryciak Leatherbarrow, born inCalder, Saskatchewan in 1920. Doris grew up in poverty, the oldest of sevenchildren in the farming family. Doris was a good student when she went to school,but quit at fifteen and worked at school.
She married George Artemenko, ashipyard worker, and became pregnant soon after. She gave birth to Sharon Doreenin March of 1943. This daughter never knew her father; George died in a fall atwork three months after the birth of his child. This left Doris alone andknowing that she needed to do something to support her child.
After the war, shelanded a job with the newly formed Unemployment Services in the Vancouver area,where she raised enough money to complete one of her dreams: own her own dressshop. She married again to Rene Leatherbarrow, and expanded her dress shop to alarge fashion warehouse with four stores. Next explained in the book is Sharon Doreen Leatherbarrow. She grew upunder a mother that was always working, and a father that was usually away onbusiness excursions. She learned how to manipulate her mother using guilt toreceive what her young heart desired.
She married three times: the secondwedding yielding a son named Darren Charles, and the third wedding to RalphHuenemann lasted until her death. Sharon usually lived off her mother’s wealth,but was later put on the payroll by Doris when Doris needed assistance in herwork. The last character explained is Darren Charles Huenemann. He grew up inalmost constant attention from his mother and “beloved gran” Doris.
Birniestates, “By the time he was in the third grade he had learned the rules. . . Hehad to be clean, polished, polite, under control, understanding, and always verynice to other people.
” (Birnie, p 51) Darren interacted differently with hispeers at younger ages: he didn’t engage in physical sport often, but was populardue to is financial status. He became involved with a group of role-players inthe popular game “Dungeons and Dragons”. Here he let some of his true feelingsloose: the desire to rebel, the violence and rudeness he kept inside, and thetendencies he had to kill his grandmother Doris. The book then turns to a chronological telling of the events, startingwith the drafting of the wills of Doris and Sharon. This seemed to be a turningpoint for young Darren, who stepped up his ideas around his peers. He confrontedtwo of his friends, David Muir, and Derik Lord, both 16 years old.
These youths,although pleasant enough around their families, had already dealt in illegalactivities, smuggling lethal knives into Canada from a post office box inWashington State. He promised them rewards for killing his grandmother andmother. For David, a cabin in the woods, a new car and about 100,000 dollars. For Derik, he would become Darren’s bodyguard, and also receive land and moneyfor weapons.
They agreed, and decided after weeks of thinking over the problemthat the easiest way to kill the pair would be when Sharon visited Doris innearby Tsawwassen. They would break in, wait for the pair, then club them andslit their throats. Darren, in the meantime, had become delusional. He staged a play at hisschool called “Caligula”, a play about a Roman emperor who symbolizes absolutefreedom and consummate evil. He began to speak of ruling small countries, andreveled his murderous plans to his girlfriend, Amanda Cousins.
She did not tellanyone about the plot, for she feared that Darren would kill her as well. After a botched attempt two weeks before, Derik and David entered thehouse of Doris Leatherbarrow on October 5th, 1990, stating they were Darren’sfriends stopping by. Sharon put two more helpings of dinner into the microwave. Derik and David then struck the two with their concealed crowbars, and usedkitchen knives to slit their throats. They overturned furniture and emptieddrawers in an attempt to make it look like a botched break and enter.
Darren andAmanda picked them up after their ferry ride, and Darren drove his friends home,then returned to his house to “wait for his mother’s return”. The police had other suspects, such as business associates, but Darrenhad the motive of greed and so they asked around in his circle of friends,including Lords, Muir and Cousins. Darren hired lawyers for the three youths,which fueled the suspicions. Then, after a period of questioning, the policemade a move. They moved on David Muir, finding inconsistencies in his stories. David cracked; he gave a full confession.
However, this was not admissibleevidence, but it confirmed the fears of the investigators that Darren had brutalplanned the whole thing. They then went to Amanda, who also gave her account onthe night of the murders in exchange for Crown Witness status. This was theevidence the police needed. They arrested Muir, Lords and Heunemann for firstdegree murder.
While Heunemann could be tried in an adult court since he was 18, theother two boys were only 16, which meant a hearing to see if they should belifted to adult court as well. Issues here included the reform possibilities ofthe two, their mental health, the harshness of adult prisons, and the severityof the brutal slayings. It was concluded that both should be tried in an adultcourt, and that no protection from the Young Offenders Act should be offered. In the Heunemann trial, the crown lawyer Sean Madigan knew thatreasonable doubt and presumption of innocence would be his obstacles, and thatdefense lawyer Chris Considine would use these tactics and clauses to win hiscase. Pictures of the victims, character witnesses against Darren and a few ofDarren’s friends from “Dungeons ; Dragons” game sessions were the prosecution’stools to try to convict Darren. Darren’s friends all testified that he had beenknown to say that he wanted to “snap his gran’s neck”.
Amanda Cousinstestified that Darren had shared his plans with her all along. Defense lawyer’sattacked her credibility, citing that she had lied to police numerous timesduring questioning, and that her testimony was a way of revenge against Darrenfor ending their relationship. In their final arguments, both the Crown and thedefense used elements of Amanda’s testimony to strengthen their case. The jury, after only three hours after retiring, decided to believeAmanda Cousins and delivered a guilty verdict on both counts of murder againstDarren Huenemann. The judge sentenced Darren to imprisonment for life withouteligibility for parole for 25 years. At this, Darren Heunemann, calm throughoutthe trial, dropped his mask, and cursed the judge, the court, and the world.
In the cases of Muir and Lord, the same elements, presumption ofinnocence and reasonable doubt, were used by the defense to try to acquit theirclients. For Lord, he also had a statement by his mother, Elouise Lord, claimingthat Derik was home for the evening on October 5, 1990. The Crown drew uponAmanda Cousins’s testimony again to describe the events of that evening, as wellas two young eye witnesses that placed the pair in the neighbourhood that night. The taxi driver who drove the pair to the neighbourhood, who had identified thepair at the first hearing, not wasn’t so sure about the pair, vaguelyremembering the youths. The defense jumped on this, hoping to raise doubt in thejury. Curiously enough, the defense for Muir offered no evidence for theirclient, only using the presumption of innocence in the closing arguments.
Thejury did not know of the confession, since it was unadmissable by law, but theevidence was still overwhelming. The jury, after a night and morning of deliberation, returned guiltyverdicts for both boys. They asked, however, that the boys be afforded someprotection by the Young Offenders Act, in that they be eligible for paroleearlier than the usual 25 years. The judge sentenced the two to lifeimprisonment with parole available after 10 years of their sentence. The last two convictions, after the Lord family’s appeal was turned downby the Appeal Court of British Columbia, were the end of the brutal tale. Birniethen makes the comment, “As they walk out of the courtroom.
. . it is clear theschoolboys have gone forever and hard-time inmates. .
. are fast emerging. “(Birnie, p 268)AnalysisLisa Hobbs Birnie is a career journalist and has written other bookssuch as I Saw Red China; India, India; Love And Liberation; Running TowardsLife; and A Rock And A Hard Place. Prior to living in Canada, she worked as areporter in her Native Australia, then in England, and in the United States. Shenow lives on an offshore island in British Columbia, where she studies cases andother stories. In Birnie’s attempt to capture the elements of the case and deliver themwithout bias and with integrity, one can see she has succeeded in most areas.
She used perspectives from almost every angle, and combined them with equalcriticism and judgment. The book is divided into logical parts, each outlining a certain aspectof the case, such as profiles of the main players, the outline of the plan, andthe separate trials. However, save mentioning the people who said certainstatements, she does not reference the trial at all or any other books with areference page. However, it does state that she spent “countless hours at thehearings and trials” in the cover notes of the book, therefore this shows shehave first-person experience of the case.
Lisa Hobbs Birnie doesn’t really argue the case. She only relates thefacts as she saw them. However, she does make a few points of interest. Sheseems to disagree with certain aspects of the Young Offenders Act, stating, “it’s the judge’s assessment of the mind-state of the offender that can result ineither a treatment-orientated three-year slap on the wrist, or 25 years. .
. as alifer. ” (Birnie, p 180) This may show that Birnie feels that the Act is toolenient on the more serious crimes. Also, she shows her ideals on psychiatristsand psychologists, stating they work in a “grey area”, while law students,lawyers and experts live in only in black and white. This can cause great riftsin a courtroom; with lawyers wanting a “yes or no”, while the psychologist canonly give “maybes”.
(Birnie, 182)In a similar case, Steve Wayne Benson, son of the wealthy Benson familywho accumulated wealth in the Tobacco Industry. He too, was shielded, protectedand dominated by his powerful family. (Leyton, p 59) He planted bombs inside hisparents van and destroyed them himself. The difference in the case is that theaccused was older, all of 34 years.
The motive, and the delusions, are the same. Greed, and the idea that the money will give him ultimate power. (Leyton, pp 40-43) He was sentenced to life imprisonment without any chance of parole, mostlybecause of his age and his unrepentant attitude. (Leyton, p 83) Another case isthe one of the Japanese son Sawanoi who butchered his parents because theydidn’t agree with him. The youth was there, he was only 12 when he committed thecrime and would serve very little time inn Canada because of the Young OffendersAct. However the Japanese courts put him into a mental asylum indefinitelybecause of his mental state.
(Leyton, 251) The motive to kill was not the sameas the Huenemann or the Benson murders. The contribution of the Huenemann, Lord and Muir cases relate to theYoung Offenders Act. The fact that Lord and Muir were raised to an adult courtinstead of a youth court. This probably happened partly because of publicpressure of the community to see justice done. Also, the life convictions, withno parole until 10 years were done, was a harsh punishment for the 16 year olds,however it showed that the court was not going to be lenient for just a heinouscrime. This may set a precedent for other courts to use the full extent of theirpower to deliver a jurisprudent sentence, one of justice and fairness.
Also apower sentence will show that the youth, knowing exactly what they were doing,are not above the law in their rights. Huenemann’s money and influence also wasshown to be ineffective in his attempts to become above the law. Finally, thiscase gives an example of the motive of greed, purely and as evil as it gets. ConclusionsThis case shows that pampering a child, showering him with wealth, andflaunting the idea that “it will all be his someday”, is a formula for disaster. The child does not have a chance to develop his own personality, therefore putsup “masks” and his real personality broods and grows to resent his elders. The book, Such A Good Boy: How A Pampered Son’s Greed Led To Murder,written by Lisa Hobbs Birnie, is a well written case review, with very littlebias or contrary opinion.
It strictly relates the facts in almost every aspect. This would be a good book for a senior law class to read and relate their ideason the evidence, the judgment, and the inside of the criminal mind of DarrenHuenemann. Law