After nearly a decade behind bars, James Urbaniak claims he is a changed man.
The Parole Board of Canada is willing to believe him.
This week marked the first time he was eligible to apply for parole, and on Tuesday the board granted Urbaniak permission to stay once a month for up to 72 hours with his mother.
If that goes well over the next three months, he will be released to a halfway house on day parole.
Urbaniak was sentenced in December 2010 to life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years after pleading guilty to the second-degree murder of his common-law wife, Jessica Martel.
The victim’s mother, Lynne Rosychuk, attended the hearing. Her comments were reflected in the parole board’s written decision.
“She does not want you to be released on parole, and if you are, the family requests no contact even with your children,” the board said.
Urbaniak’s comments were also reflected in the parole board’s written decision.
“You stated that you are deeply sorry and would do anything to take that day back, and you wish there was something you could do to ease their pain. You stated that you have worked very hard to change the person that you are — that very troubled person — and you have spent 10 years trying to improve.”
Urbaniak’s release comes with strict conditions. He must abstain from drugs and alcohol and immediately report all relationships with women to his parole supervisor.
He’s not allowed to have contact with Martel’s family and is ordered to stay out of the town where his children live with Rosychuk.
“You may not enter Morinville, Alberta, for any reason,” the decision said. “Due to the victim concerns and to respect their need to feel safe and secure, you must adhere to this geographical restriction. This will also prevent further and unnecessary victimization.”
Urbaniak’s parole officer told the hearing Urbaniak does not want to try to contact his three children unless their guardian contacts him first.
Children ‘severely victimized’ as well
The parole board detailed the disturbing circumstances of Martel’s murder.
In April 2009, she told Urbaniak she was leaving and taking the children. He attacked and strangled her. An autopsy report lists multiple injuries Martel suffered before she was strangled.
“Your children were witness to the violent attack,” the parole decision said. “The board considers your children to have been severely victimized as well.”
Since her daughter’s murder, Rosychuk has become outspoken about domestic violence.
She established the Jessica Martel Memorial Foundation to raise money to open an emergency shelter. Jessie’s House is scheduled to open in Morinville early next year.
“We, as a family, are determined to move forward despite this outcome,” Rosychuk said in a news release issued by the foundation. “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.”
Foundation executive director Janice Isberg said the family was disappointed with the parole board decision.
“They have, however, accepted that that’s their new reality,” Isberg told CBC News. “So they are just going to move forward and keep trying to heal from this horrible tragedy.”
Urbaniak was rated as a low risk to generally reoffend, a low-moderate risk for violence and moderate-high risk for domestic violence, according to a December 2017 psychological risk assessment.