One of the boys admitted his guilt from the outset, and did what the system required of him during 10 years in prison. In return for his good behaviour, David Muir was granted parole five years ago for the two murders he helped carry out in 1990.
The other has steadfastly denied his guilt. He has refused to take required prison programs, and his father has developed into a notorious agitator who infuriates prison officials. So Derik Lord remains in jail, denied parole for a fourth time last month.
The moral: Things go better for people who accept responsibility. Unfortunately for Lord, the opportunity to act accordingly just may have passed.
Lord, Muir and pal Darren Huenemann were teen friends in Saanich when they were convicted in 1992 of carrying out the murders of Darren’s mother and grandmother at the older woman’s Tsawwassen home.
Nobody who knew them could believe it at first. But prosecutors headed into trial with some significant evidence. Included were tapes of a flurry of phone calls between the boys after police told Muir they had a witness who could place the boy - then just 15 - in Tsawwassen at the time of the murders.
Prosecutors also had Huenemann’s young girlfriend, who had a damning story of picking the boys up at the Swartz Bay ferry terminal and hearing of the events of that night.
And then there was the story told by Muir. He told police that he and Lord had been hired by Huenemann to kill the teenager’s mother and grandmother. Huenemann stood to inherit $4 million from their deaths, and had promised to share his newfound fortune with his friends.
In Lord’s version, all three boys were at the Lord family home at 8:30 p.m. on the night of the murders, which meant they couldn’t have been in Tsawwassen. It’s an all-or-nothing story. To believe Lord, you have to believe that none of the boys were guilty - even though Muir confessed to everything.
Derik’s mother Elouise backs up her son. She says she was at home that night and saw all three boys in the basement. Derik’s father David, while not there that night, ferociously adheres to the same story, sometimes to the point of getting himself thrown in jail for protesting some aspect of his son’s incarceration.
Law-abiding before Derik’s conviction, David has turned into something of a chronic troublemaker in the intervening years. When I visited the family six years ago, David joked that his tombstone would read “Well-known to police.”
I had gone to Chilliwack to interview the family , where they’d moved from Saanich years earlier to be closer to Derik at Matsqui penitentiary. The parents were resolutely convinced of Derik’s innocence, and still are.
The irony is that their need to believe that Derik doesn’t deserve to be in prison ensures that he’ll never get out.
It also guarantees the worst kind of prison time. Any time somebody in charge grows weary of Derik’s ongoing refusal to admit his guilt, he’s dispatched to a tougher prison as punishment. The 33-year-old had worked his way into a healing-style aboriginal prison by the time of his last bid for parole. Now, he’s back behind bars in Matsqui.
How will it end for Lord? Possibly with a genuine lifetime in jail if he continues to deny the murders. The system may have grown more sensitive to allegations of wrongful conviction, but not in a case where only one of the three men convicted is continuing to deny the trio’s crime.
I got an anonymous e-mail the last time I wrote about Lord in 2001, declaring that Lord was very much guilty as charged no matter what he said.
I think he likely is. But it would be a tremendously hard confession for him to make now, given that his parents have spent the last 10 years and every nickel of their savings on asserting his innocence.
They believe in his innocence, and I sometimes think he has ended up convincing himself of that as well. But if you can’t admit guilt, you stay in jail. And so it goes for Derik Lord.
No one is well-served by keeping Lord in prison. Jails are expensive, and not known for their positive impacts. If Lord was a violent young man, he hasn’t stayed that way, and seems like the kind of guy who’d lead a quiet life far from the public eye if ever released.
But the stories a family tells itself sometimes take on lives of their own, and pretty soon there’s no turning back. The burden of the lie just may be Lord’s to bear for a lifetime.