James Urbaniak, the common-law husband of Morinville's Jessica Martel who was convicted in 2010 of killing her, has been granted parole after serving 10 years of his life sentence.
Urbaniak was granted parole last Tuesday and is allowed to stay with his mother once a month for up to 72 hours. After three months, if there are no setbacks, he can then move to a halfway house on day parole.
Urbaniak is not allowed to have contact with his children unless their guardian reaches out first, according to a CBC News report. He is not allowed to enter Morinville or contact Martel’s family. He is not allowed to use drugs or alcohol and he must report all relationships with women to his parole supervisor.
Janice Isberg, executive director of the Jessica Martel Memorial Foundation, said the organization is disappointed in the judicial system.
“His minimum sentence was 10 years but his max was 25 and we feel quite strongly that we could have got him somewhere in the middle rather than his first time up for parole,” Isberg said.
The executive director said his parole sends the wrong message to survivors of domestic abuse.
“At the foundation, we work so hard to let the public know about domestic violence and its impact on families, we work really hard to support survivors of domestic abuse. And this somehow just feels like we're flying in the face of all that,” Isberg said.
Isberg said Urbaniak's release stirs up a lot of emotions and triggers for the family.
“It may represent a step back in their healing, but on the other hand they are very determined to move forward and make a good life for the family, and to try to put all of this behind them. And just focus on Jessica as a mother, rather than Jessica, the domestic violence victim,” Isberg said.
Urbaniak pleaded guilty to second degree murder in December 2010 and was given life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years.
Martel’s mother, Lynn Rosychuk, was at the hearing, and Isberg said she spoke on behalf of the family asking for Urbaniak to not be released.
In a statement, Rosychuk said her family is determined to move forward despite Urbaniak's parole.
"We will no longer allow his actions to define our family, to prevent healing, or to not experience the joys that come with a life well lived."
The parole board stated that Urbaniak said he was sorry and would do anything to take back the day he killed Martel.
According to a 2017 psychological risk assessment of Urbaniak, he is ranked as a moderate-high risk for domestic violence, a low risk to generally reoffend and a low-moderate risk for violence.
Martel was killed by Urbaniak in April 2009 after the two had been in a common-law relationship for 10 years. During Urbaniak’s sentencing the court heard the relationship was strained and volatile and Urbaniak made frequent accusations against Martel and became increasingly jealous and volatile over time.
On April 29, 2009, Martel told her mother she had been arguing with Urbaniak and wanted to leave the relationship, but was afraid.
The statement said Martel had already decided to leave Urbaniak, but agreed with her mother to wait until later that night.
About an hour after Urbaniak arrived home, the couple argued and he attacked Martel, beating her, cutting her and ultimately strangling her to death in front of her three children.Since Martel’s death, her family has carried on her legacy through the Jessica Martel Memorial Foundation. The foundation is raising money to open a safe home for those fleeing domestic violence who need shelter from their abuser.
The 9,000-sqare-foot home, Jessie's House, is scheduled to open in the spring of 2020 and will serve 30 to 35 people with their children. Jessie’s House is one of only three shelters in Alberta that will serve individuals of any age or gender in need of support, and the first to serve Sturgeon County, Alexander First Nation, Edmonton Garrison and St. Albert.
The foundation is still raising money and to help support the cause you can visit www.jessicamartelmemorialfoundation.com
The St. Albert Stop Abuse in Families (SAIF) organization says if you are in a crisis situation, call 911 and yell to alert your neighbours. They also recommend arranging for a friend or neighbour to call the police if they hear a disturbance in your home, and use a code word for when you need the police.For more tips on how to stay safe while planning on leaving a domestic abuse situation visit www.stopabuse.ca.