The Barbie and Ken Killers: Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka

Welcome back gals and ghouls, to another edition of Nightscrawlers. I’ve been reading a lot of true crime novels lately, so I think I’m going to be posting quite a few stories about real life events. This week I want to talk about the Scarborough Rapist, who later was nicknamed as a part of the Barbie and Ken Killers. This story hits super close to home (literally), because it happened not far from where I’m from. Without further ado, let’s get into it. 

In 1993, the Greater Toronto Area was shocked and relieved when a couple from Scarborough was arrested in connection to numerous rapes and murders that had been tormenting the public for years. The suspects were none other than local couple, Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka, but this story starts far before Homolka was even involved with Bernardo at all.

In August of 1964, Paul Kenneth Bernardo (aka Paul Jason Teale) was born to a loving mother, and soon-to-be convict father. In 1975, Bernardo’s father was found guilty of child molestation after it was revealed that he had been inappropriately touching a young girl, as well as sexually assaulting his own daughter. Shortly after this reveal of shocking events, his mother withdrew from all family activities and fell into a deep depression. Bernardo’s older siblings were left with the roles of acting parents. Despite this drama, Bernardo was known to be a happy, care-free child who was polite and well mannered. Unfortunately, this became a facade as he grew older.

By the time Bernardo had reached dating age, he had started developing dark, sexual fantasies that involved hurting women during sexual interaction. Although he was not violent in the bedroom initially, he acted on these urges by striking and abusing the young women that he had relations with. It has been speculated that much of this rage occurred when his mother told him, when he was just 16-years-old, that he was a bastard child with a man that she had an affair with while she was married to his “father”. Bernardo didn’t take well to this news and openly starting insulting his mother.

Upon completion of high school, Bernardo went on to graduate from Sir Wilfred Laurier Collegiate Institute (now simply known as Laurier University), before beginning work for the company Amway. He also later attended the University of Toronto’s Scarborough Campus where he earned a degree in accounting.

In October of 1987, Bernardo, then 23-years-old, walked into a restaurant in the Toronto area of Ontario where he immediately caught the eye of 17-year-old Karla Homolka. The two kicked it off right away and spent the night together. From that moment on, they were inseparable. Right from the start, Karla noticed that Paul was rather rough in the bedroom and seemed to have a rather violent side to him. She surprisingly had no issue with it and even encourage his sadistic sexual preferences and behaviours. Little did she know that this was far more than a 50 Shades of Grey kind of obsession.

Prior to meeting Homolka, Bernardo began committing multiple sex crimes without ever being caught. He found his victims by stalking them late at night as they walked through parks or got off of the public transit buses. The police and the media named the unknown assailant “The Scarborough Rapist” due to each attack happening in the Scarborough area. Bernardo would not be caught for years to come, but when he was finally caught, he confessed to 14 sexual assaults within the Scarborough area between May of 1987 and 1990. In 1988, the Toronto Police Department even formed a special task force called the “Green Ribbon Task Force” in hopes of finding the identity of the Scarborough Rapist.

After a short amount of time together, Bernardo and Homolka got engaged and were living with Homolka’s parents in St. Catherine’s, Ontario until they could get enough money to buy a house of their own. It was during their time living in this home that the first crime would be committed where both parties were directly involved.

The Schoolgirl Killer

Courtesy of

Tammy Homolka
Bernardo had made it apparent that he was disappointed that he was not able to take Homolka’s virginity because she was already “deflowered” prior to them meeting. Knowing this, and knowing his sadistic preferences, Homolka got the idea to offer up the virginity of her younger sister Tammy Homolka to Bernardo as a “Christmas present” in December of 1990. On December 23rd, 1990, after Tammy and Karla’s parents had gone to bed, Karla and Paul invited 15-year-old Tammy to stay up with them and share a couple of cocktails. Karla, who worked with veterinary medicine, stole an animal tranquilizer from her work, and slipped it into Tammy’s rum and eggnog cocktail. Once she started falling unconscious, Karla held a Halcion-soaked cloth to her sisters face to ensure she did not wake up while Bernardo mercilessly raped Tammy. After Bernardo was finished with Tammy, he instructed Karla to rape her sister as well, which she did. They video taped the entire thing.

At some point during the encounter, Tammy vomited and began choking before falling limp. Quickly, Homolka and Bernardo dressed her, hid the camera, and placed her in her basement bedroom before calling 9-1-1. It was early in the morning on Christmas Eve when Tammy Homolka was pronounced dead at St. Catherine’s General Hospital. The cause of death was accidental – vomiting and choking caused by consuming alcohol. Despite the severe chemical burn on Tammy’s face (which the coroner claimed happened post-mortem and Bernardo claimed was a rug burn she acquired while they attempted to revive her), foul play was never assumed.

Shortly after the funeral, Homolka and Bernardo moved out of her parent’s house and into a house of their own in nearby Port Dalhousie.

Leslie Mahaffy
On June 15th, 1991, just two weeks before Homolka and Bernardo’s wedding day, Bernardo was wandering the streets of Burlington, Ontario in the early hours of the morning, supposedly stealing licence plates when he noticed a young girl sitting outside. He instantly knew that he had found his next “toy”. Her name was Leslie Mahaffy and she was 14-years-old. She had been locked out of her house by her parents as punishment for arriving home past her curfew. With nowhere else to go, she simply sat in the yard, waiting for morning.

Bernardo approached Leslie and spoke to her about his plan to break in to her neighbour’s home, which didn’t seem to phase her. The young girl then asked if Bernardo had a cigarette to spare, which he claimed he did, but it was back in his car. Leslie followed him willingly to his car, but when they approached the vehicle, he blind folded her and forced her inside. He then drove the girl to his home in Port Dalhousie and let Homolka know that he had their next victim. They kept her blindfolded and bound, and continually raped the 14-year-old for several hours as the video camera captured the entire thing. The next day was when the girl met her fate.

According to Bernardo, in the morning following the events, Homolka used some left over Halcion and administered a lethal dose to the teen, killing her slowly. However, Homolka claims that Bernardo strangled her to death. Unfortunately, no one will ever know because of the events that followed. Once they successfully stored the body in the basement of their home, the couple had Homolka’s family over for dinner. Once they left, they realized that they would have to dispose of Leslie’s body.

They decided that the best way to cover their tracks was to dismember the teen and encase her body parts in cement before dropping the remains into the nearby Lake Gibson. Unfortunately, one cement block was not heavy or dense enough to sink and was discovered by two fishermen, two weeks later, on the day of the couple’s wedding.

The key piece in discovering the identity of the missing girl was the orthodontic mouthpiece that she wore. The wedding went off that day without a single interruption and no sign of remorse from either party.

Kristen French

In April 1992, Bernardo and Homolka decided to take a drive around the Niagara region in hopes of finding their next “sex slave,” when they spotted 15-year-old Kristen French walking home from school. Bernardo liked what he saw and so they pulled into a nearby church parking lot and waiting for the girl to pass by. As she did, Homolka called out of her window showing a map, asking Kristen if she could help them find their way. When Kristen kindly approached the car, agreeing to help, she was forced into the vehicle and taken back to their home.

Kristen was held captive for several days, the longest amount of time they had ever kept any girl. She was filmed each time she was raped or beaten so the couple could watch it back for their own sick amusement. They finally got sick of her and decided to dump her in a ditch almost 30 miles away from their home as not to raise any suspicions. Her body was found on April 30th, 1992.

The Aftermath

By January of 1993, Bernardo had become physically abusive towards Homolka, which eventually landed her in the nearby emergency room with black eyes and broken ribs. After nearly two years of marriage, she finally chose to move out of their home in Port Dalhousie and moved back in with her parents in St. Catherine’s. Around the same time, police investigators were finally getting around to testing the DNA sample that Bernardo had provided them two years prior as a part of the investigation into the Scarborough Rapist. Bernardo thought that he had beat the system as nothing had ever come from those samples.

Courtesy of CBC

But what he didn’t know was that when the samples were finally tested, the police made the connection between him and the numerous rapes in the Scarborough area, although they were not aware that he was then living in Port Dalhousie. When this was discovered, they made the connection between the Scarborough Rapist and the Schoolgirl Killer and realized that he was both offenders. The only thing that they didn’t have, was evidence.

Following her hospital visit in 1993, Homolka was contacted by the Toronto Police Department and was brought in for questioning with the Green Ribbon Task Force. It was here that they told her that they believed her husband was the Scarborough Rapist. They did not accuse Homolka of anything as they had no reason to believe she was involved, but the interrogation alone was enough to break her and she confessed everything to her family later that night. On her parent’s advice, she got herself a lawyer and explained to him her involvement in the murders of Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French, the manslaughter of Tammy Homolka, as well as the fact that Bernardo was the Scarborough Rapist. Alongside this lawyer, Homolka confessed to the police, claiming that she was forced into her involvement by Bernardo and that it was not voluntary.

Homolka agreed to testify against Bernardo if she was granted a shorter sentence for her participation in the crimes. At this time, she also confessed that there were video tapes in their once shared home. On her word alone, with no other evidence, Toronto Police arrested Paul Bernardo on February 17th, 1993. However, after 71 days of searching their home in Port Dalhousie, they were unable to find the video tapes and offered Homolka a plea deal. On June 28th, 1993, Homolka was sentenced to 12 years in prison for the manslaughter of Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy, which she served at the Kingston Women’s Prison. In August of the same year, she filed for divorce from Bernardo.

Bernardo’s trial began on May 18th, 1995 and Bernardo chose to plead not guilty to nine charges in relation to the murders of Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French. Some of these charges included:

  • Kidnapping
  • Unlawful Confinement
  • Aggravated Sexual Assault
  • First Degree Murder

It was during these trials that the long lost tapes were finally revealed and used as evidence against him. The tapes also showed that Homolka was not as innocent as she may have claimed. She then claimed “Battered Spouse Syndrome” as the reason for her seemingly voluntary involvement in the tapes. Bernardo also claimed during his defence that he would have let every single girl go, as he had in Scarborough, but that Karla was the one who insisted on killing them. The tapes were only shown in full to the jury, while the public were only able to listen to the audio.

The trial lasted nearly 4 months and saw over 86 eyewitness testimonies. Finally, after an 8 hour deliberation, on September 1st, 1995, Paul Bernardo was found guilty on all nine charges and was sentenced to life in prison with eligibility for parole after 25 years, in the year 2020. After receiving his sentence, however, Bernardo confessed to the manslaughter of Tammy Homolka and 14 counts of rape in the Scarborough area. This caused the judge to deem him a dangerous offender, which means that he will likely never be eligible for parole.

Homolka’s plea deal was deemed one of the worst in Canadian history and is often referred to as “The Deal with the Devil” once it was discovered the extent of her involvement in the murders. FBI profilers even stated that she may be even more psychopathic than Bernardo himself.

On July 4th, 2005, Karla Homolka was released from prison after serving a full twelve year sentence. To avoid moving into the same area as the crimes, she chose to move to Montreal, Quebec. Within two years she had a new boyfriend and gave birth to a baby boy.

That’s all for this week everyone. This story was quite a doozy with a lot of small facts that I wanted to make sure I got right before I published. Do you remember these trials? Let me know by tweeting me @_Nightscrawlers.

Until next time… Keep it spooky!

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