This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.
A convicted killer who was out on parole and given permission to satiate his “sexual needs” has been charged with the murder of a sex worker.
Marylène Levesque, 22, was found dead at a hotel in Quebec City’s Stainte-Foy district on Friday.
According to several news reports, the erotic massage parlor that employed Levesque allegedly banned Eustachio Gallese, 51, after he had behaved violently with several masseuses. Levesque reportedly agreed to meet him at the hotel instead.
Gallese turned himself in to local police on January 23. Police found Levesque’s body shortly after. Gallese was charged with second-degree murder and detained on Friday. His court date is set for February 26.
Originally given a life sentence for killing his partner, Chantale Deschesnes, in 2004 by beating her with a hammer and stabbing her, Gallese gradually gained limited freedom for good behavior: Canada’s parole board downgraded Gallese’s risk of reoffending from “high” to “moderate” to “low to moderate” last year, and granted him day parole at a halfway house in March. The board extended his day parole for another six months in September.
Gallese had a history of abuse; he apparently assaulted his ex-wife, whom he lived with before he met Deschesnes, according to a court document from his murder trial.
According to the parole board’s latest written decision, obtained by VICE and translated from French, Gallese brought up relationships with women during a discussion with his case workers. While Gallese’s intimate relationships were deemed inappropriate, the decision explicitly acknowledges his “sexual needs.”
“Although you are still single and you say you aren’t ready to enter into a serious relationship with a woman, you are able to efficiently evaluate your needs and expectations toward women,” the written summary says. “During the hearing, your parole officer underlined a strategy that was developed with the goal that would allow you to meet women in order to meet your sexual needs.”
The decision also required Gallese to report all of his relations with women.
In a statement to VICE, Iulia Popa, a spokesperson from the parole board, said it uses “a wide range of information in assessing an offender’s risk to re-offend,” but did not say specifically whether libido has been considered in previous cases for male or female offenders.
“Public safety is the primary consideration in all Parole Board of Canada conditional release decisions,” Popa said.
Last week, Quebec Minister of Justice Sonia LeBel said she wanted to know how a violent offender like Gallese was granted parole. She also questioned whether Gallese’s case workers had sufficient training to evaluate public safety risks, and urged federal public safety minister Bill Blair to investigate the situation.
Conservative MP for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, Pierre Paul-Hus, pressed Blair in the House of Commons on Monday, asking why the parole board gave a man with a history of violence permission to obtain sexual services.
In a written statement, a spokesperson for Blair said, “In its September 2019 decision, the Parole Board explicitly opposed letting the accused visit massage parlors during his release,” and expressed deep condolences to Levesque’s family.
Corrections Canada and the parole board are investigating the circumstances that led to Levesque’s death, according to the statement, and will examine whether protocols were followed.
Two former parole officers told CBC News that changes to the way the parole board nominates members, implemented by the Trudeau government in 2017, may have “led to a shortage of experienced members.”
Sandra Wesley, a sex worker and advocate who runs Stella, a non-profit by sex workers for sex workers, says she doesn’t believe the parole board measured Gallese’s risk of reoffense adequately.
In the parole decision, no one questioned Gallese’s entitlement to women’s bodies, Wesley added. She also believes sex workers should have been warned of Gallese’s reintegration.
But Wesley said people cannot solely blame the parole board’s “inappropriate” decision for Levesque’s untimely death.
“It is very obvious that criminalization of sex work facilitated the violence of this man,” Wesley said.
The bill was supposed to be reviewed in 2019. In an email, the press secretary with the Ministry of Justice said parliamentary committees are currently being reconstituted, so it’ll be up to them to “determine their agenda and priorities” once they’re formed.
“In the interim, we continue to engage with those involved,” the ministry said.
The legal issues around sex work prevent sex workers from reporting abuse when it arises, Wesley said, which is why she worked to draft recommendations, including the removal of all federal criminal provisions specific to sex work.
“Anyone who helps a sex worker work is committing an offense, so if they were to announce (abuse) to police, the outcome would be that the owners and receptionists (of parlors) would get arrested,” Wesley said. “Clients would get arrested, so that’s a loss of income for the sex worker.”
“If this wasn’t criminalized it would be easy to send (Gallese) back to jail sooner,” she said.
If sex work continues to be stigmatizes and pushed underground, “we know that Marylène is not the last death. There’s going to be another one and another one,” Wesley said.
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