Here's Where Paul Bernardo Is Now & What's Happened Since He Went To Prison In 1995

He was moved to a medium-security prison in 2023.

Paul Bernardo smiles, wide-eyed. Right: Paul Bernardo looks anxiously at the camera.
Senior Editor

Paul Bernardo young. Right: Paul Bernardo older.

In 2021, a documentary about Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka brought renewed attention to the convicted couple dubbed the "Ken and Barbie Killers."

This article contains content that may be upsetting to some of our readers.

The four-part series Ken and Barbie Killers: The Lost Murder Tapes took a look at the couple's grisly crimes that took place in the early 1990s, as well as their controversial trials and Karla Homolka's plea deal.

In 1995, Bernardo was convicted of sexually assaulting and murdering two girls — 15-year-old Kristin French and 14-year-old Leslie Mahaffy — in Canada between 1990 and 1992.

He was sentenced to life in prison without parole for at least 25 years. He was also designated a dangerous offender, meaning he's unlikely to ever be released.

CBC News reports that Bernardo went on to admit to sexually assaulting 14 other women, and over 50 other charges have been brought up against him for similar alleged acts.

He was also convicted of manslaughter following the 1990 death of 15-year-old Tammy Homolka, Karla's younger sister. She died after she was drugged and sexually assaulted.

Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka

Bernardo and Homolka met in 1987 at a hotel restaurant in Scarborough, Ontario. At the time, she was 17 years old, while he was 23.

The couple were married by 1991, but in the years leading up to their wedding they were responsible for the death of 15-year-old Tammy Homolka and 14-year-old Leslie Mahaffy.

Tammy Homolka was drugged and raped on two occasions in 1990 by her sister and Paul Bernardo. On the second occasion, on December 23, Tammy choked on her own vomit and died. At the time, her death was ruled an accident by police.

Leslie Mahaffy was kidnapped, raped and killed by the couple on June 14, 1991, just two weeks before Bernardo and Homolka were married in a lavish ceremony.

In 1992, less than a year after their wedding, Bernardo enlisted Homolka's help to kidnap, rape and torture 15-year-old Kristen French. Her body was found in a ditch several weeks later.

Where is Paul Bernardo now?

In 1995, Bernardo was found guilty of all nine charges against him, including two counts of first-degree murder for killing French and Mahaffy.

Until May 2023, he was serving his life sentence at a maximum security prison in Millhaven, Ontario. Prior to this, he was held in Kingston Penitentiary until 2013.

However, after three decades in maximum-security prisons, Bernardo was moved to Quebec's La Macaza Institution on May 29, 2023. The facility, which is about 190 kilometres northwest of Montreal, is a medium-security prison.

CBC News reports that Justin Trudeau and key cabinet ministers received hundreds of emails from Canadians at the time, who expressed their shock and disgust at Bernardo's move from a maximum-security prison to a medium-security prison.

Following the backlash, Anne Kelly, commissioner of Correctional Service Canada, said in a statement, "The review committee concluded that the decisions to reclassify Paul Bernardo to medium and transfer him to La Macaza were sound, and followed all applicable laws and policies."

She added, "I want to be clear that, at any point, an inmate can be returned to a higher security level, if deemed necessary, to ensure the safety of the public or our institutions."

"The fact that he is at a medium-security institution does not negate the fact that he is a psychopath, and that he committed horrific and unspeakable crimes," Kelly said.

A review into Bernardo's prison move noted that La Macaza Institution would not provide him with any increased access to the community, and said that he would continue to be housed behind a secure, controlled perimeter.

Why was Paul Bernardo moved to a medium-security prison?

In July 2023, a review into Paul Bernardo's move from a maximum-security prison to a minimum-security prison was published and shared with the public.

According to the report, per CBC News, Bernardo's security level was assessed 14 times between 1999 and 2022. On each occasion, the correction system's "security reclassification scale" recommended Bernardo be classified as medium security.

This was overridden 13 times over 23 years, so Bernardo remained in a maximum-security prison. Per the review, he was kept in a maximum-security facility for his own safety, with "significant security measures and restrictions on [his] movement."

The key change happened in 2022, when Bernardo was fully integrated with a larger group of offenders.

He then asked to be transferred to nearby medium-security prison Bath Institution, but the request was rejected as the facility didn't have locking doors, common washrooms were always accessible to offenders, and there were a high number of violent inmates.

He was told he would not be able to move to another prison located in Ontario because of the notoriety of his case in the province.

He then requested to be moved to Quebec's La Macaza Institution, which was deemed a compatible facility as it had safely housed high-profile sex offenders in the past.

Where is Paul Bernardo in 2023?

As of November 2023, Bernardo continues to serve his life sentence at La Macaza Institution in Quebec.

CTV News reports that when he was moved to the medium-security facility in May 2023, Bernardo had asked his lawyer if he would speak publicly to the media on his behalf.

However, staff members from the correctional service are thought to have intervened, urging Bernardo to consider the victims' families

What is Paul Bernardo's life in prison like?

The 2023 report suggests that Bernardo has spent most of his incarceration "extremely restricted" and has only had controlled interactions with other offenders.

A redacted timeline of Bernardo's life in prison suggests he was a "victim" in a dozen incidents between 1995 and 2019.

In 2018, he was charged with possessing a weapon in prison. He allegedly had a "homemade shank composed of a screw and a pen for a handle," per CBC News. The charge came with a maximum sentence of 10 years, although it was later withdrawn.

Speaking in 2018, Bernardo's lawyer at the time said, “As you know, he's reviled not by just people out of jail but by people in jail."

"He had no knowledge of it being there. There were many opportunities for many other people to have placed it there," he added, per Global News.

In 2021, he was denied parole for the second time in three years. Under current legislation, Bernardo is eligible for a parole hearing every two years. Bernardo's next parole hearing is slated for February 2024.

The 2023 review into Bernardo's prison move suggested he showed a "low potential for reintegration outside the prison system and may not fully accept responsibility for his actions," CBC News notes.

Is Karla Homolka free?

Yes, she is now.

Homolka went to the police in 1993, after she was badly beaten by Bernardo with a flashlight. She filed charges against him and claimed she was an unwilling accomplice to his crimes.

Although videos had been captured during the couple's attacks on the young women, they were not initially known to the court and Homolka was able to make a deal with prosecutors before they came to light.

She pleaded guilty to manslaughter and served 12 years in prison. The plea deal was dubbed "the deal with the devil."

Her case was not reopened by the courts, even when the video evidence of her involvement in the crimes later surfaced. Per the courts, she had already fulfilled her end of the deal by testifying against Bernardo.

Homolka was 35 when she was released from prison.

Unsuccessful in maintaining her post-release privacy, reports from 2017 suggested that she had changed her name to Leanne Teale and moved to Châteauguay, Quebec.

According to The Globe and Mail, after her release, Homolka married her lawyer's brother, Thierry Bordelais. They went on to have three children — a girl and two boys.

She hit the headlines in 2017 when reports said she had been volunteering at her children’s school.

How old is Paul Bernardo?

Paul Bernardo is now 59 years old.

He was born in 1964 in Scarborough, Toronto.

The Paul Bernardo documentary

The documentary about Bernardo and Homolka — Ken and Barbie Killers: The Lost Murder Tapes — can be found on CTV, Discovery+, AppleTV and more.

It was released globally in December 2021.

Paul Bernardo's book

In 2015, Bernardo published an ebook on Amazon, which Global News said included violent and gory descriptions of death and terrorism.

The book, titled A MAD World Order, was later pulled from sale.

It's not clear how Bernardo was able to publish the book, as the Correctional Service of Canada said he would have had no access to the internet or email.

This story has been updated since it was originally published in 2022.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual assault, call the Assaulted Women's Helpline at 1-866-863-0511. You can also contact support services for male survivors of sexual assault at 1-866-887-0015. If you need immediate assistance, please call 911 or go to your nearest hospital. Support is available.

Helena Hanson
Senior Editor
Helena Hanson is a Senior Editor for Narcity Media, leading the Travel and Money teams. She previously lived in Ottawa, but is now based in the U.K.