Roughly two years after being granted full parole for the shocking murders of three Chatham-area residents, Jason Shawn Cofell is no longer required to receive regular psychological counselling.
This special condition of his release, initially imposed when Cofell received day parole in May 2016 and continued as part of his full parole when granted in January 2020, was lifted by the Parole Board of Canada at a hearing May 2.
The removal of the condition was recommended in a March 17 submission to the parole board from the Correctional Service of Canada.
The board’s decision credited Cofell, 48, for successfully coping with a series of stressful situations, including the recent loss of his job when co-workers discovered his past crimes.
“To your credit, your file describes you as managing this disappointment well and quickly refocusing on finding alternate employment,” board members said in their decision.
The decision also noted that Cofell, who was living in Peterborough after his release, reported not feeling stressed by recent financial issues after he had accumulated debt while trying to launch a business enterprise.
“Despite concerns expressed by your case management team about these potential stressors, the psychologist with whom you have been working has reported that at no time in his contact with you has he been concerned that you have exhibited attitudes or behaviours that would place you at risk of reoffending and/or violating your release conditions,” the decision stated.
“The psychologist has also confirmed that you have made positive gains with regards to community reintegration, made effective use of counselling and other supports, dealt well with stress, and continue to live pro-socially,” the board decision added.
More than three decades ago, Chatham-area residents were stunned by the shocking murder of Jasen Pangburn, 18, and his grandparents Virginia and Alfred Critchley. Pangburn was shot and then struck in the head with a gun butt while his grandparents died of stab wounds sustained in their Chatham-area home on Oct. 6, 1991.
Cofell was only 18 at the time of the murders.
Just more than a year later – on Nov. 17, 1992 – Cofell received a life sentence after being convicted of three counts of first-degree murder following a trial in Goderich. He was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.
Cofell spent more than 24 years in custody before he was initially granted day parole. Since the psychological counselling condition was imposed as part of his paroles, Cofell had engaged in more than 40 sessions, the board decision noted.
The psychologist concluded there had been no significant developments over this time that would warrant an increase in Cofell’s risk to reoffend from the current low-risk estimate, the board decision stated.
Given Cofell’s response to difficult situations, which has included using the support of his case management team, and the assessed success of his reintegration as gauged by the psychologist, the board concluded removing his psychological condition would not increase his risk to reoffend.
The decision also noted the board could reimpose the condition following an application by the Correctional Service of Canada if Cofell requires future counselling or the Correctional Service of Canada deems it necessary.
Despite the removal of this condition, three other stipulations remain in effect for Cofell’s parole: not associating with anyone involved in criminal activity; not associating with any member of the Canadian Armed Forces without authorization from his parole officer; and no contact with any member of his victims’ families.