Former Hells Angels hitman paroled after 20 years in prison for murder

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Dean Daniel Kelsie has been granted day parole after serving 20 years for murder. (CBC - image credit)
Dean Daniel Kelsie has been granted day parole after serving 20 years for murder. (CBC - image credit)

After serving 20 years for murder, a Hells Angels hitman has been granted day parole for six months with conditions, but the Parole Board of Canada notes "there is still work to be done."

The parole board released its decision Friday in the case of Dean Daniel Kelsie, 47.

Kelsie will be sent to live at a community residential facility, or halfway house, at an undisclosed location as soon as a place is available.

Kelsie shot and killed Sean Simmons in the lobby of an apartment building in north-end Dartmouth, N.S., on Oct. 3, 2000. Kelsie was one of four men who took part in the killing.

"The Board has not lost sight of your offence, which had tragic and irreversible consequences — not only for the victim who was killed — but also for the family members left behind," the board said.

"Their grief and anger remain in evidence and they will continue to suffer due to your actions."

Initial conviction overturned

Simmons's family opposed any form of release. They said in their submissions to the board that they did not think Kelsie was ready.

Kelsie has been serving a life sentence for murder since March 2003. He's been in jail since his arrest in 2001.

Two other men, Neil William Smith and Wayne Alexander James, are serving life sentences for their roles in Simmons's killing. A fourth man, Steven Gareau, was set free in 2018 after a judge ended the prosecution against him.

Simmons was killed on orders from a Hells Angel because he allegedly had an affair with the wife of a gang member.

Initially convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and first-degree murder, Kelsie's sentence was increased in 2008 and again in 2015 for assaults on fellow inmates, and eventually overturned on appeal.

Crown prosecutors took the case to the Supreme Court of Canada to try to get that conviction restored. The Supreme Court refused and, with the consent of the lawyers, substituted a conviction for second-degree murder.

As a result, Kelsie's day and full parole eligibility dates were revised, making him eligible for full
parole since July 2019.

He was first denied parole last February.

Board says 'significant progress' made

The board noted that Kelsie has apologized for his actions, and while remorse is not necessarily relevant to risk, "it does demonstrate an evolution in your attitude and an understanding of the consequences that your actions have caused."

In a mental health progress report this January, the psychologist indicated that despite the ups and downs of Kelsie's sentence, he always maintained a desire to behave well and work on himself.

"You have made significant personal progress. Despite small pitfalls, you never lost sight of your goals and your desire to retake control of your life," the board said.

Given that Keslie is being released from a medium-security institution after two decades of incarceration, the board said he will need time to adjust. For the first three months of his parole, Kelsie must return to his halfway house every night.

Moderate risk to reoffend in short term

Kelsie is also under special conditions that are meant to keep him and the community safe as they directly relate to his personal risk factors.

They include not consuming drugs or alcohol, to continue with psychological counselling since "there is still work to be done," not to associate with anyone involved in criminal activity, and to have no contact with any member of the victim's family.

Overall, Kelsie is at a moderate/high risk of violently reoffending in the medium term and long term, but his psychologist said he actually sits more at a moderate risk level in the short term while under supervised release like day parole.

Kelsie's level of accountability and motivation is rated high, while his social reintegration potential is moderate.

His time in prison has been marked by conflict and violence. He has 20 disciplinary offences, including fighting, uttering threats and failing drug tests. But he has not been involved in violent incidents since August 2019.

On other occasions, he has engaged in misconduct like substance use and disrespect. The most recent incident happened in May when Kelsie had an inappropriate attitude and used "vulgar language" toward correctional officers following a search.

Indigenous supports

In order to make its decision, the board said it looked at Kelsie's file, his risk factors, his Indigenous Social History (ISH), and written submissions from Kelsie and Simmons's family.

Kelsie's "grandmother is Métis" and his maternal grandfather is Mi'kmaq, the board said, but Kelsie was largely "unexposed to his Metis culture," spirituality and language. He never participated in any ceremonies, except when incarcerated.

No one in his family went to residential school, but they do suffer from substance abuse,
gambling and some of them died of substance abuse. There was also sexual abuse in the family, the board said.

He participated in the Pathways initiative while in prison, which encourages a traditional Indigenous way of life through counselling, ceremonies and skills like drumming.

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