August 21st, 2019

Father of murdered Medicine Hat toddler wants son’s killer offline

By Jeremy Appel on January 9, 2019.

CANADIAN INMATES CONNECT SCREENSHOT
T-Jaye Heller, who was convicted in 2013 of killing a two-year-old in Medicine Hat, has a profile on a website that seeks to connect prisoners with pen pals. The father of the victim has started a petition to have Heller removed from the website.


jappel@medicinehatnews.com
@MHNJeremyAppel

The father of a Medicine Hat toddler murdered in 2011 is dismayed to learn his son’s killer has a profile on a website that seeks to connect Canadian inmates with each other.

T-Jaye William Heller, who pled guilty to the second-degree murder of his then-girlfriend’s two-year-old son in 2013, has a profile on Canadian Inmates Connect, which bills itself as a network for prisoners finding “pen pals.” His profile says he’s slated for release from Innisfail’s Bowden Penitentiary in 2026.

The father, who cannot be named due to a publication ban on the victim’s identity, currently resides in Edmonton. He said a cousin brought Heller’s profile on the website to his attention last year.

“I got sick of it,” he said. “I wanted to voice my opinion because my son can’t.”

For him, it’s about more than just his deceased son. He said he fears for society at large when people convicted of such heinous crimes are able to freely interact with people on the outside.

“There are a lot of single moms out there who are lonely and people like this will manipulate them, help them get out early and who knows what they do when they’re out? I never want this guy out on the street again and I’ll do whatever I can to make sure (of it),” he said.

“I’m not saying all inmates can’t be on this website. But if you’re in for hurting children or women, you should be disclosing that.”

Sherri Maier of Beyond Prison Walls, a prisoners advocacy organization, says she understands the need to rehabilitate prisoners and allow them to connect with the outside world, but agrees with the father that in cases like this, the website should be doing more due diligence.

“It’s an alarming issue,” Maier said. “I’m not against any of those guys being on the website. What I’m against is he’s not disclosing fully that his crimes were against a child.”

Simply searching his name on Google would have revealed the extent of Heller’s crimes, she added.

“Most people don’t know that if he is to find support from somebody beyond the other side of the walls, he could potentially apply for a conjugal visit that could help him get out on parole,” said Maier. “If he gets out, he could go to another person with a child and do the same thing.”

Heller’s profile on Canadian Inmates Connect says he was convicted of second-degree murder, but doesn’t provide any additional details on the nature of his crime.

“People often tend to judge people in prison without taking the time to get to know them,” the profile says. “I’m a good listener and try not to judge people without knowing all the facts first.”

Maier says there’s quite a deal of irony in this statement.

“You’re not even divulging all the facts of the crime to the people who are writing you, but you want people not to judge you until they know all the facts,” she said.

“Well, then give them all the facts. You’re a child killer.”

Website founder Melissa Fazzina told the News that she can’t disclose more information about the prisoners on the site, citing “privacy laws.”

She said it’s the responsibility of the site’s users outside prison to know whom they’re interacting with.

“It’s recommended that people do Google anybody that they’re interested in writing to,” said Fazzina. “These inmates aren’t hiding anything per se.”

The father, himself a former inmate, calls this position “a slap in my family’s face.”

“She has her kids. She can see her kids every day,” he said. “I don’t think she understands the severity of where I’m coming from.”

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