In this 2005 photo, Debbie and Darcy Chorney leave the Brandon courthouse during a recess in the first-degree murder trial of Michael Bridges. (FILE PHOTO)
WINNIPEG — The family of Manitoba murder victim Erin Chorney is rejecting her killer’s desire to meet with them to discuss the notorious case.
Michael Bridges recently told the National Parole Board he’s now prepared to engage his victim’s loved ones as part of the healing process for all involved "so that they can get what they want from me."
It was a remarkable development, considering Bridges has never actually admitted to killing the 18-year-old Brandon girl and tried everything possible to avoid being caught, and then convicted.
"There is nobody in the family who even wants to see his face, let alone hear his voice," the victim’s father, Darcy Chorney, said.
"All he’s doing is creating more hurt for the family."
Bridges, 33, is currently serving a life sentence with no chance of parole until the year 2029. He made the restorative justice request to parole officials while asking them to let him out of prison on escorted leaves so he can visit a terminally-ill family member in hospital.
The parole board denied the bid, citing the horrific nature of his crime, the views of the Chorney family and his questionable relationship with the dying relative.
"I think he’s just trying to play the system. He’s all about that, he’s a manipulator," Darcy Chorney said. He added parole officials contacted him late last week to inform them Bridges is now appealing their decision. No date for the hearing has been set.
As part of his request for escorted leaves, Bridges put forward a detailed proposal on how they would work. He would travel from prison to hospital in a Correctional Services of Canada vehicle with at least one armed escort. He would also be allowed to stop for a meal at a restaurant during the trip, which was estimated to last at least nine hours total on each occasion.
"I could see him using the opportunity to try and escape and then hide out, like he did the first time," Darcy Chorney said.
Bridges and Erin Chorney had been involved in a stormy relationship which ended shortly before he killed her in Brandon in 2002. The case would remain unsolved until 2004, and Chorney’s family still hoped she might be alive.
During the elaborate RCMP operation, Bridges calmly explained how he choked Chorney unconscious, then cut the cord off his mother’s hair dryer and used it to strangle the teen. When she didn’t die, he submerged her head in his bathtub for nearly 20 minutes.
Bridges then carried her body to a nearby cemetery, dug up a freshly covered grave and placed her inside.
Bridges was convicted in 2005 of first-degree murder and lost a subsequent appeal. He tried to claim he was innocent and actually a victim of police entrapment — despite leading police to Chorney’s body and having specific knowledge of the crime only the killer would have known.
Darcy Chorney said his family was stunned to be contacted by parole officials earlier this year letting them know Bridges had an upcoming hearing. They figured they didn’t even have to think about him for many more years to come considering parole eligibility is still so far away.
The family prepared extensive impact statements which were presented to the parole board and cited as a factor in their decision to deny his application.
"That’s good, we were hoping it would have a big role," Darcy Chorney said.
Parole documents show Bridges has completed numerous family violence and anger management programs while behind bars, upgraded his education and is now deemed a low-enough risk that he was moved to a minimum-security penitentiary earlier this year.
» Winnipeg Free Press
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 23, 2014