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We remember Pamela George

Beaten to Death

Pamela GeorgeIn December 1996, Pamela Jean George, a 28-year-old mother of two, was beaten to death. Steven Kummerfield and Alex Ternowetsky were convicted by jury of manslaughter for the murder and sentenced to 6½ years each by Justice Ted Malone. Judge Malone instructed the jury to remember that George was "indeed a prostitute," when considering whether she consented to the sexual assault.

The issue of consent was important in determining whether the young men should be convicted of manslaughter rather than first-degree murder.

Ternowetsky hid in the trunk of the car when they picked Pam George up, so that she wouldn't know that there were two of them. She was beaten so badly that her family couldn't open the casket for her funeral.

The manslaughter conviction was appealed by Crown prosecutor Matt Miazga. Kummerfield was paroled November 10, 2000, after serving just under four years in New Brunswick, because officials feared for his safety in a Saskatchewan prison where there is a large Native population. By now, they have blended back into the Canadian population.


Pair guilty in slaying of Regina prostitute:
Verdict shows two classes of justice, band chief says

Steven Kummerfield

Steven Kummerfield 6½ years for manslaughter

A jury convicted two Regina men of manslaughter yesterday in the slaying of a 28-year-old woman, in a case that has galvanized public attention in Saskatchewan because of its uncomfortable racial undertones and the widely divergent backgrounds of the clean-cut accused and the marginalized victim.

Steven Tyler Kummerfield and Alexander Dennis Ternowetsky, both 20 and the products of middle-class homes, were found guilty in the beating death of Pamela Jean George, a native woman and single mother, on April 18, 1995.

Relatives of both the men and their victims burst into tears when the Court of Queen's Bench jury in Regina announced its verdict, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. The men, who will be sentenced Jan. 3, appeared emotionless as the verdict was read.

They had been charged with the first-degree murder of Pamela George, which requires a life sentence with no eligibility for parole for at least 25 years.

The verdict infuriated Chief Lindsay Kaye of the Sakimay Indian band, who attended the six-week murder trial off and on.

Alexander Ternowetsky

Alexander Ternowetsky 6½ years for manslaughter

"All this goes to prove to me is that there are two justice systems," he told reporters outside the courtroom. "One justice system for white people and one justice system for the Indian people. It's all right for a white person to kill an Indian person. Nobody cares if an Indian person dies."

Regina pair to be sentenced Jan. 3 in manslaughter of native prostitute

"...When we brought Pam home we couldn't even open the coffin because she was beaten so badly and these boys are using alcohol as a defence. If these boys were men, they'd own up to what they've done."

Defence lawyers contend that alcohol played more of a role in the crime than did race.

The all-white, eight-woman, three-man jury (a 12th juror was excused for health reasons) took 12 hours over two days to reach the verdict.

"The jury made a fair decision," Mr. Ternowetsky said on the way to the prison van. "But most importantly I'd like to reiterate my apology to the George family. I didn't mean for anything to happen and I'm sorry it did."

During the murder trial, the court was told how the two men, fuelled by liquor and testosterone, cruised the streets of the Saskatchewan capital on the night of the killing looking for a hooker. Rebuffed by several prostitutes, one of the men hid in the trunk of their car as they finally lured Ms. George into the vehicle, the court also heard. According to testimony, she was taken to a remote area near the airport, performed oral sex on the men and then was hauled from the car and beaten to death.

The court heard that the men split a bottle of Southern Comfort and a case of strong beer before venturing out in Mr. Kummerfield's father's car.

According to testimony, a friend asked Mr. Kummerfield the nest day what he had done the night before. "Not much," was the reply. "We drove around, got drunk and killed this chick."

The court heard that Mr. Ternowetsky also told a friend after Ms. George's body had been discovered that "she deserved it. She was an Indian."

During the murder trial, the men admitted beating Ms. George but claimed she was still alive when they left her battered and face down in a muddy field. An autopsy showed she had a broken nose, swollen eyes and hands, and cuts on her face and lips. She died of brain-stem hemorrhaging.

Members of the Saskatchewan Coalition Against Racism demonstrated outside the courthouse during the trial, noting the gulf between the social and economic backgrounds of the killers and their victim.

Mr. Kummerfield, the grandson of a former New Democratic Party cabinet minister, starred on his university basketball team. Mr. Ternowetsky's father was once a professor of social work at the University of Regina.

Ms. George was a Sauteaux woman from the Sakimay Indian Reserve north of Regina. the eldest of six children and the product of a broken home, she left school in Grade 9 and moved to the capital where, like many natives, she lived on the margins of society, her life marred by violence and economic insecurity. A single mother while still a teen-ager, she lost a two-year-old son in a 1989 drowning accident. Her friends said she worked as a prostitute twice a month to help support her two other children.

"Pam very much loved her family and her children, and she was always there for them," said her father, Terry Sangwais.

During the trial, the men offered backhanded apologies to Ms. George's family.

"I just apologize for whatever part we played in this," Mr. Kummerfield told the jurors. "I don't know what happened -- if we were the ones who did it or not."

His words were echoed by Mr. Ternowetsky. "I just apologize to the George family for the way I treated Pamela. She didn't deserve it and there's no excuse for what I did. I'm just sorry."

Throughout the trial, a few of Ms. George's relatives sat quietly in the courtroom, hugely outnumbered by the friends and family of the accused.

The defence argued that the pair were too drunk to know what they were doing: Each had an estimated blood-alcohol level of at least 0.31 to 0.34 -- four times the legal limit for driving. However, the Crown said that although alcohol may have lowered their inhibitions and affected their judgment, the men could still form the intent to kill.

University of Regina criminologist Barrie Anderson said the case has captured public interest because it illustrates so starkly the two cultural solitudes in Saskatchewan, where natives make up about 14 per cent of the population. In Regina, three out of four prostitutes are aboriginal, a statistic attributed mainly to economic circumstances.

"You've got two middle-class white boys who killed a native woman -- look at the media interest," Mr. Anderson said. "We've had seven murders in Regina this year and most of those were natives killing natives. Nobody can recall the names of the victims or the accused. If it was a native man who was responsible here, you wouldn't be interviewing me right now -- that's the racist aspect of it."

He added that "obviously they [the men] wanted a native prostitute," noting they could have gone to an area where non-native women work the streets.

There is some disbelief and denial among mainstream Regina residents that two young men with no previous criminal records could commit such a crime.

"People are saying, 'Middle-class boys just don't do this, so there must have been something that provoked them,'" Mr. Anderson said. But "would they have beaten up a white prostitute?"

Ron Bourgeault, a Métis professor of sociology at the Saskatchewan Federated Indian College, said the slaying probably was not premeditated. But the circumstances of the crime point to a form of "systemic economic racism," he said.

Last year, a Saskatoon man was convicted in the slaying deaths of three native women there. All were said to have worked as prostitutes.

"What options do you have if you're poor and native?" Mr. Bourgeault asked. "You're part of the underclass. For women, what are you going to do? Chances are you're going to try to make ends meet any way you can, and you might do a little hooking on the side."

But Mr. Bourgeault said it appears Ms. George's killers are part of a generation that, despite its apparent privilege, sees little hope for the future.

"They wanted to use her for sex and then give her a licking," Mr. Bourgeault said, noting that the pair were products of public schools in south Regina, where there have been race-related incidents.


Pamela Jean George, aged 28, of the Sakimay First Nation

(Found face down in a ditch West of Regina on the morning of April 18, 1995)

The 28-year-old mother of two was the victim of a tragic and violent homicide. Steven Tyler Kummerfield, 20 years old, and Alexander Dennis Ternowetsky, 19 years old, were charged with first degree murder of Pamela George.

According to Kummerfield's testimony, he and Ternowetsky met in the evening of April 17, 1995 for drinks. They first shared a nearly full 40-ounce bottle of Southern Comfort. After 11 p.m., they picked up a 12-pack of high alcohol beer from a downtown beer outlet.

While Kummerfield testified that their only plan was to drink that evening, they did look for a prostitute. With Ternowetsky in the trunk, Kummerfield picked up Pamela George and drove out on a gravel road to a spot near the airport.

Kummerfield then let Ternowetsky out of the trunk. At this time, Pamela George started to scream and tried to escape. The two men caught her and returned her to the car where, according to Kummerfield, they had oral sex. They then proceeded to beat her.

Dr Modesto Escanlar, who testified for the Crown, described her injuries as being consistent with blows from a blunt object. He stated that the beating gave Pamela George a broken nose, swollen eyes and hand, cuts on her face and lips and numerous bruises that covered her upper body especially her head.

On April 19, 1995, Tyler Stuart, a friend of Kummerfield, asked him what he had done the night before. Stuart says that Kummerfield replied,

"Not much. We drove around, got drunk and killed this chick."

Under cross examination, Stuart qualified the statement by saying,

"I think we killed her."

He also testified that Kummerfield told him they threatened to kill Pamela George if she refused to have sex with them.

Stuart also related a telephone call from Ternowetsky and said his friend told him, "She deserved it. She was an Indian." In a later telephone call, Ternowetsky told him "he was real drunk and couldn't remember a lot of it."

After the testimony of almost 30 witnesses, Mr Justice Ted Malone, of the Court of Queen's Bench told the all-white jury it would be "very dangerous' to convict Kummerfield and Ternowetsky of first degree murder.

He also told them to bear in mind that Pamela "indeed was a prostitute" when considering if she consented to having sex with the accused.

The jury returned a guilty verdict to the lesser charge of manslaughter.

Public reaction to the verdict was swift and widespread. A coalition of Regina-based women's groups filed a formal complaint against Mr. Justice Malone to the Canadian Judicial Council for the inappropriate comments during his charge to the jury. The National Action Committee on the Status of Women said the judge's remarks "dehumanized women and trivialized the murder".

Blaine Favel, Chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, called the verdict "one of the most unjust in Saskatchewan judicial history".

In an open viewpoint in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix (February 7, 1997) Chief Favel wrote, "There have been over 20 major justice studies over the past 15 years, including one in Saskatchewan in 1993, which have all come to the same conclusion. First Nations people experience racism and systemic discrimination in the criminal justice system both as accused and victim. In the Pamela George case, we have seen little respect for Aboriginal persons. First Nations will not have respect for the justice system until it is changed."

Immediately after the verdict, Chief Favel also wrote a letter to the Acting Attorney General, Eric Kline. He said, "I submit to you, as the Attorney General for this province, to strongly consider appealing this case and, if successful, argue for a verdict that would be appropriate considering the circumstances under which it was committed so that justice is not only done but also seen to be done."

"Once again, Indian people are victimized by a system that does not reflect our values and the lives of our people are devalued by the courts." --Vice-Chief Lindsay Cyr December 6, 2000

In December 1996, Steven Kummerfield and Alex Ternowetsky were convicted by jury of manslaughter for the murder of Pamela George and sentenced to 6½ years each by Justice Ted Malone. Judge Malone instructed the jury to remember that George was "indeed a prostitute," when considering whether she consented to the sexual assault. The issue of consent was important in determining whether the young men should be convicted of manslaughter rather than first-degree murder. Ternowetsky hid in the trunk of the car when they picked Pam George up, so that she wouldn't know that there were two of them. She was beaten so badly that her family couldn't open the casket for her funeral. The manslaughter conviction was appealed by Crown prosecutor Matt Miazga.

Kummerfield was paroled November 10, 2000, after serving just under four years in New Brunswick, because officials feared for his safety in a Saskatchewan prison where there is a large Native population. He is now living in a half-way house in Vancouver

Ternowetsky was granted day parole in August, 2000. He was returned to prison in 2002 for violence against his current girlfriend.