A book of hurt

FRANK LANDRY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:19 AM ET

It's been 18 years, but Karen Chaboyer continues to relive the nightmare of her common-law husband's murder.

And she's still bitter at Edmonton author Rudy Wiebe, who along with convicted killer Yvonne Johnson wrote a book called Stolen Life: The Journey of a Cree, that re-counts the crime.

"Every time something comes out in the public, it's very, very hard," said Chaboyer, 53. "It just stirs the pot again and all these emotions... It disrupts everything for our family."

Wiebe was recently awarded a $25,000 Charles Taylor Prize for Non-Fiction for his 2006 memoir, Of This Earth: A Mennonite Boyhood in the Boreal Forest.

He was given a framed certificate at city hall yesterday by Mayor Stephen Mandel for the accomplishment.

"There's no question he made his mark on the city," Mandel said of Wiebe.

Chaboyer said she doesn't take issue with Wiebe being honoured by the city. It's the fact that Johnson continues to profit from the earlier book that makes her skin crawl.

"We're trying to heal," Chaboyer - who lives in Toronto - told Sun Media. "With all this external stuff getting in the way, we just want to do internal healing."

Johnson was convicted of first-degree murder for the 1989 torture-killing of Leonard (Chuck) Skwarok and given a life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.

She was part of a drunken group that set upon Skwarok, 36, and choked him to death in Wetaskiwin. It was in response to a rumour he was a child molester.

Despite his desperate attempts to escape, Skwarok was beaten, strangled with a telephone wire and sodomized with a table leg.

Johnson has said in the past that she splits the money made from the book with Wiebe, her co-author.

She only gets $500 per year under prison rules. The rest goes into a trust fund for her three kids.

Mandel yesterday declined to comment on the controversy.

Wiebe defended Johnson's involvement in the writing project.

"The book is an expression of her trying to grapple with herself, about how did this happen?" Wiebe said.

"She's a wonderful woman. Nothing like this had ever happened before."

In Alberta, convicted criminals are prohibited from receiving money for recounting their crimes for books, movies or the Internet.

Johnson is exempt because Stolen Life was released prior to the legislation taking effect in October 2006.


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