Tyler Sturrup enjoys camping, hiking, swimming and he loves dogs. He also hopes to own his own business one day.
Matt Johnston loves to play and watch hockey, he’s loyal and he’s looking for a special girl with whom to share his love and strength.
Nathan Zuccherato is looking for female friends to write to and get to know. He likes the Blue Jays, and he likes to read and work out.
Three guys looking for a female pen pal to make a connection and maybe, just maybe, to form a relationship with.
All innocent enough sounding until you realize that in addition to Johnston’s self-identified skill of making a great baked spaghetti, he also murdered two innocent men and four rival gang members in the notorious Surrey Six slaughter in 2014.
These are just three of the dozens of posts on the website Canadian Inmate Connect where federal inmates look for pen pals.
The site’s creator, Melissa Fazzina, said the website is her passion and she makes no apology for giving serious convicted criminals access to pen pals.
“The majority of these people are coming out some day,” Fazzina told the Times in a telephone interview from Kingston, Ont. “So why make them worse? I’m doing Corrections Canada a favour. I’ve taken on violent guys who calm down, they’ve got something to wake up to in the morning . . . They want stay out of trouble.”
Fazzina is adamant that one misconception about her site needs to be cleared up: inmates serving federal or provincial sentences in Canada do not have access to the Internet. She is the intermediary via snail mail.
Some of the worst offenders
The site is littered with names that ring a bell if you watch the news. For one, Momin Khowaja is looking for “women/girls who are health conscious and fitness oriented”
But what got up the ire of some Chilliwack residents was the posting for a man whose name cannot be used because of a publication ban. That’s because K.D.C. was sentenced in 2013 to 12 years in prison for the ongoing, violent rapes of his toddler stepdaughter.
When he was arrested at his downtown Chilliwack home on Oct. 4, 2012, police interrupted the man sexually assaulting the then three-year-old girl.
In handing down the original sentence in court in Chilliwack in July 2014, Judge Roger Cutler said K.D.C. had a “reprehensible attitude towards the offences” and is a high risk to reoffend.
He later lost an appeal, the court noting that during an interview, K.D.C. said “that he did not believe he could be rehabilitated and that he would have sex with children again if he had the opportunity.”
(The mother of the victim is still amid a trial for her involvement in the case.)
When asked about his inclusion on the site, where he seeks a woman “to develop a friendship with or maybe eventually a long term relationship,” Fazzina was unapologetic.
Because of the publication ban, when he applied to be on the site she found nothing on the Internet about him.
“As a mother, [K.D.C.’s] charges do not sit well with me whatsoever,” she said when forwarded a Times story on him, but added that she allows any inmate to join regardless of their convictions.
“I’ve seen the results, the transformations and the success that this website has created for these inmates.”
The Times asked Fazzina to contact K.D.C. to see if he had anything to say to Chilliwack residents about him trying to connect with a woman after what he did to his last girlfriend’s daughter.
In a hand-written letter, the 33-year-old said he didn’t have anything to say that the Times doesn’t already know. He also said that because he has been in the paper, including in a story that made “me look like a monster,” he has had to look over his shoulder where he is currently at Mountain Penitentiary in Agassiz.
“There are many individuals in prison that would love to beat the s–t out of me, or even kill me if they could, and you know what, I deserve it, but it causes so much stress knowing that,” he wrote.
Chilliwack’s federal representative in Ottawa doesn’t like Fazzina’s website and he said those convicted of serious crimes are separated from society for a reason.
“Why should a maximum security inmate have access to this sort of website?” Chilliwack-Hope MP Mark Strahl asked. “This has the potential to hurt the victims of crime again when they and their families see the criminal who harmed them using that crime as a way to attract people online. The rights of the victims of crime should always come before the rights of criminals.”
He added that while the site may be legal, he hopes the Minister of Public Safety will use all of the tools at his disposal to limit access to it.
But Fazzina said her site is a public service, giving the most serious offenders a second, sometimes a third or fourth, chance that in the end helps society.
“Once you get to know them and can put a voice to the picture and hear their stories, it changes things,” she said. “Their crimes should not define them at all.”
Who writes to a murderer?
So what type of a woman, or man, would want to write to a murderer or a pedophile or a bank robber?
Fazzina said there are all types, but she conceded it is often women with low self-esteem.
“I had one woman tell me, ‘this is all I deserve,’” she said.
Some of the women who write have no intention of ever meeting the men they write to. Some, in fact, prefer those who are in for the longest sentence possible.
As for negative feedback for what she is doing, Fazzina isn’t concerned and—particularly because of Magnotta—has had numerous articles written about her website already.
“One thing I have learned in five years is there’s no such thing as bad publicity when it comes to the limitless topics surrounding this website.”
As for K.D.C., his expected statutory release date is Oct. 2, 2020.