CONTENT WARNING: This article contains reference to rape, molestation, murder, torture, and crimes against children, which may disturb some readers.
The name Kerri Kehoe is not a household name. But perhaps, had Paul Bernardo’s case not been at the centre of everyone’s attention when the man who raped and tortured her was arrested, her name would be as commonplace as that of Kristen French or Leslie Mahaffy.
Now, as Kehoe’s assailant, Richard Charles Joyce, is set for a parole hearing in mere weeks, Kehoe is hoping that Bernardo’s name being back in the headlines won’t once again overshadow how the justice system handles the man whose shockingly abhorrent actions against her and other juvenile females were showing an escalating trajectory when he was finally arrested in 1991.
It is for that reason – as per Kehoe’s wishes – the following article includes disturbing, painful, and odious details. Kingstonist has omitted some of the more heinous facts in an attempt to make this important article easier to digest.
Most children imagine monsters are scary beasts, lurking in the dark, reeking of some looming unknowable terror. Kerri Kehoe met a monster when she was just 11 years old and the evil torture and depravity she suffered at his hands, changing her life irrevocably, is unthinkable.
But Kehoe must think about it now, because her monster is just a man, Richard Charles Joyce, and he is seeking parole this summer and the ability to walk free among the rest of us.
Kingstonians might remember that Joyce was convicted along with his crony, Terry Douglas Kennedy, of the heinous 1991 murder of Yvonne Rouleau at Nozzles Gas Bar in downtown Kingston, which has now been closed for decades.
According to news reports at the time of their trial, Joyce and Kennedy held Rouleau by her hair over the gas bar’s floor safe, while torturing her with punches to the head and face, and shallow knife jabs to her neck and shoulders, to force her to open the safe before ultimately cutting her throat and leaving her to die. Joyce reportedly laughed when he heard the verdict that he’d been found guilty of murder in the first degree. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
There is no record of him laughing, however, when, in 2010, a determined investigator sent a rape kit for DNA testing and linked Joyce to the kidnapping, rape and torture of two little girls prior to his murder conviction.
“That’s when I decided to come forward,” Kehoe explains. She had seen a news story about the new charges against Joyce and knew that the secret she had kept for two decades must be told.
It was a summer day in 1991 and Kehoe was 11 years old. Her cousins invited her to join them swimming at the Memorial Centre and she was walking the short distance from her Rosemund Crescent home to the bus terminal, she recounts.
Kehoe describes “an unusual feeling of impending danger as I walked across a parking lot, and I saw a stranger walking towards the back of his vehicle where I was about to pass.”
The stranger, who we now know was Joyce, met her at the back of his car. He had a knife and he forced her inside. He tied her hands as she begged him, crying, “Please don’t kill me, please don’t kill me.”
What followed was hours of sexual torture that included things no child should know of, let alone endure. He molested her as he drove, then parked in a lot on McAdoo’s Lane and continued to torture her. He then drove to a wooded area where he tied her, naked, to a tree and left for a time.
Kehoe recalls her terror as he returned, thinking he might see her awkward efforts to support her naked body as an attempt to escape. She begged again for her life as the torture resumed.
She remembers Joyce raising his hand above her head at one point, and her eyes shot upward. He held the knife in his left hand, poised to stab her in the back. The young girl, sure she was about to die, began apologizing profusely saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry.”
The only thing that saved her life, Kehoe is certain, was the fact that, just then, Joyce ejaculated, though she was not aware of what was happening at the time.
“That has left me tortured with paralyzing flashbacks,” she states, “The moment I found myself incessantly begging and crying for him not to kill me… I looked up to see that my abductor had a knife raised above my head, ready to stab me from behind. My head was down. There were no words spoken. There was no threat made by him. It was by the grace of God that I had the instinct to look up and see what had caught my attention.”
“One thought that has remained constant throughout the last two decades that I have never doubted; Richard Joyce’s intention that day was to kill me — me, an innocent, little child,” she says, still in disbelief. “I never know when I will re-live one of these traumatic scenes… and I find myself emotionally and physically frozen.”
She remembers having to get dressed afterwards and walking back to the car half sideways, trying to watch his hands with fear that he was going to stab her. When they finally reached the car, she pleaded, “I promise I won’t say anything. I promise I won’t say anything.”
As they drove on Counter Street (now John Counter Boulevard) near Rosemund Crescent, Kehoe says she told Joyce that she lived “right there.” She remembers him driving by her neighbourhood and being terrified he was not going to let her go. He drove past her street and then stopped on Glengarry Road, letting her out.
She did not tell. She feared she would not be believed. And so, 20 years passed.
“I never had the intention of ever sharing the story back in 2011 when I came forward,” Kehoe says. But then, she saw a news story about two other girls whom Kingston Police said were abducted, raped, and tortured, then returned to their neighbourhoods, both within a year of her own ordeal: a 10-year-old in July of 1989 and a nine-year-old in February of 1990. DNA had linked Joyce to one case, and the modus operandi was the same in both kidnappings and assaults as it was in her own.
She knew it must be Joyce and she could help prove it. Kehoe came forward to Kingston Police, where she says she received extraordinary care from Sergeant Melanie Jefferies and Victims Services Worker Sharon Ansell.
“That really supported my recovery to the point where they were planting the seed for me to share this story, share the story with victims of crime, share the story with police agencies,” says Kehoe, who has since become a public speaker, sharing her story with others
“Sharon nominated me for the Ministry of Attorney General award back in 2016,” Kehoe notes, “And it’s like that double-edged sword, right? It feels uncomfortable to receive awards for… your courage, but really, it’s to give people a visual of what recovery looks like.”
“I really truly believe that is not what happens to us, it’s what happens for us,” Kehoe explains, “I wouldn’t wish what happened in my life on anyone, but it happened, and what’s my responsibility?… It ended up being a voice for victims.”
Likewise, Kehoe nominated Sergeant Melanie Jefferies for the Police Services Hero of the Year Award in 2022. Jefferies, she says “rerouted her life and recovery.” In 2022, Kehoe reached out to Sergeant Jefferies, “who was incredibly supportive and listened attentively… She went beyond her role by personally calling [Kehoe] to provide advice and support. Sergeant Jefferies even offered to attend the parole board hearing, 11 years after she worked diligently to achieve a conviction.” Jefferies won the award in 2023.
Kehoe has never met Detective Paul Tohill, the man who worked the cold case of child abduction and sexual assault of the other girls for 20 years. “When he retired in 2010, he asked for the DNA to be resubmitted to the Centre of Forensic Science, and it [identified] Richard Joyce,” she says, emotion causing her to falter. “Sergeant Jefferies talked about how it was at Christmas time and how she thought that was the greatest gift because the case has been solved. Never did she anticipate leads to other victims would come forward and that it was a serial kidnapper, also convicted of murder.”
She says she praises Detective Tohill as a hero for his dedication and commitment to Joyce’s victims every time she speaks publicly.
And yet, despite the valiant efforts of the officers, victim support workers, and the victims themselves, Kehoe is currently confused and more than a little angry.
“This man [Joyce] may get escorted passes in six weeks. He may get parole. [Corrections sent me a letter], two pages [long], listing his rights… he can potentially get parole in August, which [would mean] he gets to live the rest of the sentence in the community.”
Joyce pleaded guilty to nine different charges related to the kidnappings and rapes, and 12 years were added to his sentence.
“Twelve years ago, when we left court, my understanding was Richard Joyce was leaving prison in a body bag… So, to get a call last year, to be informed that he was requesting escorted passes in the community… I was confused,” Kehoe says. “And then I got a call earlier this year, saying he’s up for parole and they’re going to do both of those things at the same time in British Columbia. It is wrong… this man is seriously sick, and you cannot convince me that there’s anything that helps a predator, a pedophile, a murderer.”
She says Joyce has bided his time in prison, with good behaviour: “He’s cascaded his way down to minimum security. And I think the public needs to know that he could be released in six weeks… there’s no rehabilitation… it’s proven again and again, that pedophiles don’t have the possibility of being rehabilitated.” Kehoe debated whether or not to participate in Joyce’s parole hearings.
Ultimately, she says, she knows what happened to her was not her fault, but she feels she owes her story to other victims of trauma.
“If you ask the universe for patience or for wisdom, and you get some really challenging and shitty experiences in life,” she says, asking rhetorically, “Well, you did get your wisdom, you did get more insight, you did get more patience, hopefully, yes. Because that’s what you asked for, right?”
She uses a metaphor of an experienced sailor: the sailor didn’t get that experience from sailing only smooth seas. “It’s like that, right?… I have this insight. And I have this drive in me wanting justice, a deeper sense of justice, because I have these traumatic experiences.”
So, Kehoe says, she shares her traumatic experiences with the knowledge that some in the community may find it disturbing. She feels especially deeply for the Rouleau family who lost their wife and mother and could be reading this. She shares it knowing full well that Richard Joyce’s family is still in Kingston, the community she still calls home. She shares it knowing that not all his other victims can speak the way she does. She shares it because “God forbid, there may be others who have kept their own trauma a secret for too long.”
Kehoe is acutely aware of the current headlines about Paul Bernardo, who was operating in St. Catharines around the same time that Joyce was raping children and murdering a wife and mother here in Kingston.
“If people had known all of this about Richard Joyce at the time, they would think he was just as much of a monster as Bernardo… he should leave prison in a body bag,” she says.
Joyce’s parole hearing will take place in British Columbia in early August 2023. Kingstonist will provide further coverage at that time.
The following is information from Kingston Police:
For active incidents of violence, dangerous scenarios, or any emergency situations call 911.
For individuals experiencing emotional or mental distress, AMHS-KFLA (https://amhs-kfla.ca/programs-services/crisis/) crisis lines are staffed 24/7, 365 days a year by experienced professionals. They can provide immediate support, advocacy, and referrals to appropriate services as needed. The Kingston & Frontenac 24/7 Crisis Line can be reached at 613-544-4229 or Toll Free at 1-866-616-6005.
No one has the right to abuse another person. Victims of intimate partner violence, sexual assault, or any type of sex crime (and those who may have witnessed such crimes) are encouraged to contact Kingston Police. The following links offer valuable support services and resources in the Kingston area for victims of sexual abuse and/or violence:
- Kingston Police (613-549-4660)
- Kingston Interval House
- Kingston Sexual Assault Centre
- Resolve Counselling Services Canada
- KFACC (Kingston Frontenac Anti-violence Coordinating Committee)
- Victim Services of Kingston and Frontenac (613-548-4834)
- Addiction & Mental Health Services – Kingston Frontenac Lennox & Addington
- Ministry of the Attorney General – Violence in the Family
- Ministry of the Attorney General – Victim Services Directory
- Ontario Network of Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Treatment Centres
- Canadian Centre for Men and Families