Wednesday, June 30, 1999
Offender wins the chance to turn her life around
Neve's history littered with lies, prostitution, assault
EDMONTON There have always been two schools of thought on Canada's most notorious woman criminal.
The Alberta Court of Appeal ruling yesterday, which removes Neve's dangerous offender designation, provides the 26-year-old one last chance to end the confusion. Her future, now more than her past, will make the final determination.
"People change," said Neve earlier this year. "I'm not a child anymore."
She was only a child when she ran from home and began a life of depravity on the streets. Adopted by Colleen and Jim Neve of Calgary as a baby, little Lisa showed no significant signs of trouble until Grade 7, when she got drunk at school and refused to go home.
Soon after, at age 12, she was under the control of a pimp who sold her for sex to Calgary men who liked young flesh. The pimp shaved her pubic hair so she would appear even younger, then blindfold Neve so she couldn't identify the clients.
The deed often took place in the back of one Calgary restaurant, atop a freezer.
By all accounts, Neve's upbringing, prior to her running away, was middle-class and average. Some people speculate she suffered from foetal-alcohol syndrome, but her birth mother denied such claims.
But how to explain a young girl leaving a normal home life for the streets, drug addiction, prostitution and constant violence?
Neve herself blamed an incident in Grade 5, where she was sexually assaulted by a teacher her mother had sought out as a tutor.
Then, in a move that was characteristic of Neve, she later denied the assault ever happened. In fact, that was her testimony on the witness stand. Which one was the lie?
Neve's juvenile record was lengthy and she seemed particularly bent on violence while incarcerated. She once took another juvenile prisoner hostage and held a pen to her throat.
She eventually moved to Edmonton and worked the streets of Alberta's capital city as a prostitute.
In total, her criminal record includes 22 convictions for prostitution, weapons charges, uttering threats, forcible confinement, assault, break and enter, robbery and aggravated assault.
During her 1994 dangerous offender hearing, the courtroom heard days of testimony about Neve's alleged obsession with violence. Her diary contained references to murder, including a strange poem which began: "Kill, kill, kill, kill; Killings, millions of babies burning, mass murder."
Neve was also portrayed as worshipping mass murders and wanting to torture her birth mother. Her heroes, she said, were Charles Ng and Adolph Hitler.
But while the police, the Crown and psychiatrists took her seriously about all this, she claimed it was all a ruse. In jail, said Neve, you have to act tough to get respect.
She also claimed the talk of killing and torture was a way of keeping social workers and therapists off balance. She said she didn't want to talk to people about her problems.
Yet her sensational words came back to haunt her in the dangerous offender hearing. Mr. Justice Alec Murray declared Neve a dangerous offender, and gave her an indefinite sentence.
"I'm public enemy number one," she said in an interview from her jail cell immediately after.
Neve was incarcerated at a psychiatric centre in Saskatoon, as well as jails in Prince Albert and Edmonton. At one point, she tried to hang herself and spent eight days in intensive care.
In 1996 and 1998, the National Parole Board denied her parole, despite a record of good behaviour in prison. It said she was much too high a risk to reoffend.
Of late, she has been in custody at the Okima Ohci healing lodge in southern Saskatchewan, a medium-security facility without locks, fences or guard towers. It stresses native spirituality, which has inspired Neve, whose biological mother was Metis.
Neve said earlier this year that the dangerous offender designation was the best thing that ever happened to her because it made her face her past. But what about her future?
The Alberta Court of Appeal spent 15 months considering that very question.
"There is no doubt that Neve has a history of offending the law; and we cannot say that Neve will not reoffend," wrote the Court of Appeal panel.
"That risk exists and it is a real risk."
The Edmonton Journal
Created: June 30, 1999
Last modified: January 19, 2001
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