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Day parole extended for Saanich man who arranged killing of mother and grandmother

Darren Gowen — formerly known as Darren Huenemann — arranged for Mount Douglas Secondary School classmates to murder his mother and grandmother in 1990 for a $4-million inheritance
Darren Huenemann with his mother and grandmother. FILE PHOTO

A Saanich man who arranged for his Mount Douglas Secondary School classmates to murder his mother and grandmother in 1990 for a $4-million inheritance has been granted a four-month extension of day parole.

Darren Gowen — formerly known as Darren Huenemann — was first granted day parole in August 2022.

Gowen, now 51, was 18 at the time of the killings. He orchestrated the murders of his 47-year-old mother, Sharon Huenemann, and 69-year-old grandmother, Doris Leatherbarrow, at Leatherbarrow’s home in Tsawwassen.

His classmates Derik Lord and David Muir carried out the murders with a knife and a crowbar while Gowen stayed at home with his girlfriend. Lord and Muir rearranged the crime scene to make it look like a burglary had taken place.

In 1991, Huenemann was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. Lord and Muir were also sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years.

Muir, who admitted his role in the murders, was granted day parole in 2002 and given full parole in 2003. Lord, who continues to maintain his innocence, was first granted day parole in March 2020. He was denied full parole last week.

During an in-office review on Feb. 1, the parole board noted that the murders were not Gowen’s only crimes. In 1995, he escaped from a B.C. prison, assaulted a staff member, stole a vehicle and engaged in a high-speed chase with police. He was handed a three-year concurrent sentence.

Gowen’s latest psychiatric assessment, completed in 2017, was positive. The psychiatrist found Gowen had made significant progress over the years. The report found Gowen accepted all the blame for the murders and became emotional when he expressed his remorse and regret.

A 2020 psychological risk assessment found Gowen at moderate to low risk over the medium and long terms to violently reoffend.

The psychologist concluded that the murders had been committed when Gowen was approaching adulthood and he had clearly done a lot of work on himself in the decades since.

The parole board noted that since his release on day parole in August 2022, Gowen’s social integration has been positive. He is hoping to return to school with funding from Emploi Quebec to complete a vocational diploma of 735 hours, but has not yet been accepted into the program. A recent strike has led to delays in processing his application.

However, Gowen is unemployed, which is a source of financial stress and “challenges the last recommendation of your case management team for full parole,” said the board.

Gowen’s case-management team now recommends day parole be continued for only four months due to his unemployment.

Board members concluded that Gowen’s risk of reoffending remains manageable in the community on day parole.

“These next few months in a halfway house will enable you to stabilize the occupational sphere whether by finding work or starting school,” their decision said.

During his day parole, Gowen must have no contact with family members of the victims. He is also forbidden to associate with anyone involved in criminal activity.