Edmonton man who killed wife made progress in prison, parole board says

The Parole Board of Canada says an Edmonton man convicted of killing his wife and dumping her body nearly 15 years ago has made progress in addressing family violence while in prison.

A parole board panel decided last week to grant Michael White, 43, four unescorted temporary absences from the Beaver Creek Institution in Gravenhurst, Ont., over nine months.

Three of the absences are meant to help him get familiar with the city of Barrie, Ont., and a halfway house there, and the other is to be spent with family, particularly his now-adult daughter.

The panel released its reasons for the ruling today, saying the 72-hour absences would help White develop and demonstrate the skills necessary to reintegrate into society.

It says White, who maintains his innocence in the death of his wife Liana White, is assessed as posing a low risk of reoffending.

The parole panel says the nature of White’s convictions means he is considered a high risk for future domestic violence, but notes he has taken positive steps to deal with the issue.

“To your credit, you engaged relevant programming and made positive progress,” the panel said in the decision. “Accordingly, the board considers that your risk would not be undue during the proposed absences.”

White told the panel Wednesday he had always believed his marriage was perfect, but realized while participating in a family violence program that some of his behaviour had in fact been abusive.

“From your perspective, the program was helpful,” the two-member panel wrote. “From the board’s perspective, it was to your credit that you engaged in the programs, acknowledged historical problems and reportedly made gains.

“In the board’s experience, few individuals that deny culpability are willing to engage in such programming.”

However, White is not to see his girlfriend during his absences from prison, the board said. “Given the nature of your offending, and your relatively recent relationship with your girlfriend, there is a need for ongoing monitoring of this relationship,” it said.

Liana White was four months pregnant with the couple’s second child when she was stabbed to death in July 2005. A search party that included her husband found her body in a ditch a few days later.

Michael White, who previously worked as a mechanic and served in the military, was convicted in 2006 of second-degree murder and offering an indignity to a dead body.

He was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 17 years. Alberta’s highest court later rejected his bid to have the convictions overturned.

At last week’s hearing, White denied playing any role in his wife’s death. He acknowledged that he acted in a way that drew police suspicion after his wife went missing, but blamed that behaviour on his emotional state.