Ken and Barbie Partners in Crime: Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka

Karla Homolka in court July 6, 1993 | Courtesy of macleans.ca

Could you love somebody so much that you would kill for them? Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka did. Since the first time they met, they knew they were meant for each other. Once kindled, their lustful relationship grew into one that led them deeper into sexual experimentation. They both had manipulative personalities, but Paul’s would eventually overpower Karla’s. Their fantasies grew stronger, and then family and friends began dying at the hands of these two, Paul and Karla. They thought they were smart enough to get away with it, but soon enough, all their dreams of an escape came crashing down.

Karla was born in Ontario, Canada on May 4, 1970. She was the eldest of three, and grew to be smart, popular, pretty, and well-loved by her friends and family. Karla pursued a job at a veterinary clinic. She adored animals. While at a pet convention in Toronto, she met her prince charming, Paul Bernardo, at just age seventeen. And Paul was twenty-three. The relationship between the two rapidly advanced. They both clicked instantly, sharing pathological desires in their sex life, binding them closer. This led to quirky foreplay, where Paul played the master and Karla the slave.1

Karla and her husband, Paul Bernardo | Courtesy of thestar.com

Paul loved the feeling of dominating women. And Karla was wrapped around so tightly on his finger that she would do anything to please him. Bernardo often complained that when he met her, she was not a virgin. Karla, willing to satisfy Paul’s needs, offered her younger sister Tammy as a sex sacrifice to him because Tammy was still a virgin. Both planned to force Tammy into being a younger and purer version of Karla. To do this, Karla stole an animal anesthetic from her workplace for later use. On December 23, 1990, at a Christmas party at their home, the couple drugged Tammy’s drink with halcyon, and soon took her down into the basement. Karla pulled out the animal anesthetic and drenched a cloth with it to cover Tammy’s mouth, and knock her unconscious. Bernardo raped her, but Tammy unexpectedly began gagging on her own vomit and suddenly died. When her death was officially declared, it was labeled as an accidental death, as the drugs in her body went undetected.2

Paul continued his killings in the Scarborough suburbs of Toronto. He raped women and then murdered them. Some women fortunately escaped with only an attempted rape. No one could pin down who was committing these crimes. So this mysterious figure became known as the Scarborough Rapist. He usually attacked females outdoors, but occasionally he would break into their homes and severely beat them along with strong verbal harassment. Soon, the Metropolitan Toronto Police created an investigation to capture and arrest the Scarborough Rapist. It was only a month later that the Forensic Science Center matched Bernardo’s DNA with the Scarborough Rapist.3

Karla Homolka | Courtesy of murderpedia.org

A search of Bernardo’s home revealed numerous tape recordings of the rapes upon the women. Lots of the tapes showed the women being strangled and killed by Paul by their end. Karla decided to testify against Bernardo, and in return was to be granted a reduced sentence. Karla was interrogated for four days. She blamed Paul for her sister Tammy’s death, and described many of Paul’s kidnappings and rapes that resulted in women’s deaths. Two victims during the reign of the Scarborough Rapist were two schoolgirls Mahaffy and Kristen. Karla accused Paul of committing these crimes, and her accounts were later found to be true by forensic evidence. She said she lived in terror of Paul and was forced by him to partake in his crimes. On February 17, Bernardo was arrested and brought to the Toronto detention center where he awaited trial. At his trial, he was charged with first degree murder, found guilty, and subsequently sentenced to life in prison with possibility of parole in twenty-five years. Karla was sentenced to only twelve years in prison.4

Karla’s bruised face caused by Paul’s abuse | Courtesy of thoughtco.com

Now what did the future hold for these two who eventually turned on each other? As for Paul, he will be eligible for parole in 2018 at the age of fifty. But surprising news has surfaced, Paul is planning to get married while serving his term! Apparently a woman from London, Ontario, who requested to remain anonymous, has been charmed by this “innocent” man. She has said to her friends that Bernardo was just a bystander to the rapes and murders of the two schoolgirls. She was so determined to wed this convicted killer that she tattooed one of her ankles “Paul’s girl.” On the other hand, the woman’s father rejects her plans and says he hopes she will abandon this ill-thought idea. Many other news reporters and even the lawyers who represented Kristen and Mahaffy have all commented on how appalling they found it to be for anyone wanting to wed a man after his horrific crimes.5

As for Karla Homolka, she was released in 2005 after a short twelve year sentence. She thereafter resided in Quebec and married Thierry Bordelais, gave birth to a son, and later had two other children. She was found volunteering at an elementary school in Montreal. Breakfast Television Montreal has confirmed that she often went to the elementary school where her children also attend. Many parents of other children were displeased to see this, and red flags were raised. Parents commented that they did not want her to be on the school’s property and that they believed it wasn’t right for a former serial killer to be around children, especially volunteering. Disturbed parents complained to the school, but they weren’t answered until the Quebec Conference of Seventh-day Adventists sent out a letter. They stated that their priority was to provide quality education to the students and that while they arrange the complaints from the parents, they encourage parents to communicate with the Quebec Conference Office of Education. They also say that they were aware of who Karla is and that it is the law for Canada to conduct background checks on any personnel associated with the school. Karla, tired of the social media, moved away in the year 2007. Nobody heard of her again until a journalist, Paula Todd, came across her in Guadeloupe in 2012.6

  1. Charles Montaldo, “The Crimes of Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo,” ThoughtCo., (May 2017).
  2. Charles Montaldo, “The Crimes of Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo,” ThoughtCo., (May 2017).
  3. Historica Canada: The Canadian Encyclopedia, June 2016, s.v., “Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka Case,” by Edward Butts.
  4. Nick Pron, Lethal Marriage: The Unspeakable Crimes of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka (Canada: McClelland-Bantam Inc., 1995), 9-16.
  5. Irene Ogrodnik, “Convicted killer Paul Bernardo set to marry: report.” Global News, July 4, 2014. Accessed December 6, 2017.
  6. Fazioli, Domenic. “EXCLUSIVE: Karla Homolka occasionally volunteers at Montreal elementary school.” CityNews, May 26, 2017.
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97 Comments

  • I had never heard of this couple or their intense story before reading this article. This article was very well written and was very informative. Although at first, these two seemed like the perfect model couple, it is crazy that their story became so twisted. It is heartbreaking to hear that Karla was willing to sacrifice her own sister into the hands of her boyfriend for sex. I can’t imagine how her family didn’t put two and two together to realize that it was the couples doing.

  • Looks to me that he manipulated her into doing many things, but I believe that she also did some of the things by her own free will. She wouldn’t have just given up her sister like that, that is something that a vicious person does, and although she served 12 years in prison, I believe that it should’ve been a longer sentence. I have heard of this case before, but reading the article gave me more insight about it.

  • To think that this “barbie” serial killer had gotten released in 2005 shows that murder charges need to be changed. The ken and barbie killers were a couple that should never be reborn. How Karla would let paul rape then kill her little sister is unbearable. I guess how the the saying goes anything for love. but these two just take it to a whole new level.

  • While I didn’t know anything about these two before coming across this article, I’m glad I do now. The abuse part of the story was very sad and unfortunate. It was such a toxic relationship and it’s crazy to me what people will put up with for ‘love’. I think it’s crazy how manipulative he was to her since such a young age and the things he would make her do.

  • I have never heard of this couple before, this article did a great job at explaining in detail the story which allowed me to get hooked in. I think that the craziest part of all the atrocious things this couple did was the fact that Karla would willingly put her sister in a situation in which she got rape and later lead to her death. Honestly, when reading this part, I was so appalled that someone could do that to their own family, especially her sister and not do anything about it. I also cannot fathom the thought of living with someone whom you know rapes and kills women just to get the satisfaction of having control which is just truly twisted , I personally wouldn’t be able to go on living my life without having to carry that much of a heavy burden, knowing that I could’ve done something to stop all those attacks earlier but chose not to do so. While I do think that Karla didn’t receive the punishment she deserved, I do believe that humans can change and while it’s understandable that parents would be apprehensive at the sight of having her on school grounds given her background, I do feel bad that she had to go into a state of hiding. As for Paul, I think he deserves to continue being in jail and his acts should never be forgiven as he took the lives of innocent women who had a bright future ahead of them that was severed by his hands.

  • This article was so well written and kept me extremely interested. I made frequent gasps and facial reactions at the intensity and gruesomeness of the story. What got to me the most was the death of Karla’s sister. I cannot even comprehend the though process of all knowingly doing that to someone you love. The second thing that really hit me like a train was the fact that Paul has a shot at parole this year and that someone actually wants to marry him despite his horrendous lifestyle.

  • I have never heard of this couple before. Its disturbing that Karla helped drug her own sister and let her get raped by Paul, you would think she would feel guilty for the death of Tammy but it seems she didn’t. This wasn’t real love at all. Its crazy to think someone would want to marry Paul after what he’s done, I wouldn’t even be able to look at him.

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