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Man who killed four gets 72 hours of freedom

VANCOUVER - A man who killed four people, including an RCMP officer, in a "spasm of deliberate violence" in the Vancouver area more than three decades ago will be allowed to leave prison for up to 72 hours each month, the National Parole Board has ruled.

Steven Leclair was 34 when he shot and killed three people in a Vancouver bar in September 1980. He then hijacked a car and headed to an RCMP detachment in nearby Richmond, where he killed one officer and wounded another.

Leclair, who is now 67, was convicted of four counts of first-degree murder and is serving a life sentence.

Last year, the National Parole Board granted Leclair two eight-hour day passes to visit his wife.

He recently asked the board to expand those passes to allow him to stay with his wife overnight at an undisclosed location somewhere in the Lower Mainland.

The board released a decision Tuesday saying Leclair will be permitted two overnight passes each month — one for 48 hours and another for 24 hours. He will be allowed to visit his wife's house, as well as places such as restaurants, movie theatres and his wife's church.

While the board's decision says Leclair presents a "high risk to re-offend violently," it also notes there have been no issues with his unescorted day passes since they were granted almost a year ago. Before that, he was allowed escorted trips from prison, and those, too, happened without incident, the board says.

The decision says Leclair has a stable and positive relationship with his wife, has the support of his church, and has not seriously acted out violently while in prison.

"The board is to address the matter of risk, and whether your risk can safely be managed in the community," which was dated Jan. 14.

"These special conditions are reasonable and necessary to protect society and to assist with your reintegration as a law-abiding citizen."

Leclair was at a bar in Vancouver on Sept. 19, 1980, when he was thrown out for "belligerent behaviour," the parole board's decision says. As he was removed, he told two staff members he would be back to kill them.

A short time later, Leclair returned to the bar. He shot and killed a waiter, as well as a woman seated nearby, and then leaned over a counter and shot the bar's manager in the head. He also fired at someone fleeing the scene, but missed.

After that, Leclair commandeered a passing vehicle, ordering the driver to take him to an RCMP detachment in Richmond, where he killed one officer and wounded another, the board says.

The violence ended when a third officer ordered Leclair to surrender, prompting the killer to throw down his gun.

The parole board says it was "among the most heinous crimes" in B.C. history.

"Such a bloody spasm of deliberate violence must, and does, cast a long shadow over the rest of your term of life imprisonment," says the board's decision.

"Someone who is capable of that level of controlled rage will always have a question mark about the possibility of its re-occurrence."

Leclair applied for early parole in 1998 under the so-called faint hope clause, which allowed offenders serving life sentences to apply for parole after just 15 years, rather than the mandatory 25.

A B.C. Supreme Court jury rejected his request.

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