Well Done


Helen Prioriello-Dawe and her daughter, Terri Prioriello.

Killer denied parole; ‘I am so sorry,’ teen’s torturer says

Frank Armstrong
Local News – Wednesday, April 18, 2007 @ 00:00

The mother of a teenage girl who was raped, tortured and murdered 25 years ago stared down her daughter’s killer at a parole hearing yesterday shortly before he lost his bid for freedom. David James Dobson is serving a life sentence with no eligibility of parole for 25 years for the first-degree murder of 17-year-old Darlene Prioriello. Dobson mutilated the Brampton girl’s body after raping her, then smashed her head with a brick behind a Mississauga factory on May 6, 1982. He then taunted the Prioriello family, dared police to catch him and pledged to kill again in the same way the following year.

At yesterday’s National Parole Board hearing, Dobson, 42, tried to present himself as a very different person from the teenager who appeared to have all the makings of a young serial killer.

He said he had found God and had been reformed for more than 20 years, ever since his mother told him to smarten up.

“My mother said, ‘Enough about this. Get yourself straightened out and stop all this sh–,’ ” he told the three-person parole panel.

Dobson even cried big wracking sobs when Darlene’s sister, mother and niece read out statements describing the impact the murder had on the family.

“I am so sorry, I’m so sorry,” Dobson gasped and turned toward Darlene’s mother, Helen Prioriello-Dawe. It was the only only time he looked at a Prioriello family member during the nearly day-long hearing.

Prioriello-Dawe, who claims her hair instantaneously went grey when she identified her daughter’s body in the morgue a quarter-century ago, had shuffled tentatively to the long boardroom table to read her statement and appeared on the verge of tears, but Dobson’s words appeared to galvanize her.

“Do you really think I’m buying your act?” she spat back at him. With that retort, she began to tell the panel about Darlene, a high school student who always took the time to tell people she loved them.

A tomboy, Darlene was determined to become an electrician despite ridicule from classmates who teased her about being the only female electrical student.

“I asked her if she could get past the teasing and she replied, ‘Yes, mom, they’re not going to stop me. This is what I want to do and I’m going to do it,’ ” recalled Prioriello. “But David Dobson sure stopped her. He stopped her.”

Prioriello-Dawe recalled how Darlene had used her allowance money to buy a new pair of jeans for a friend who had no money and how she would bring friends home to her mother for supper who were having problems and could use a little extra “Mommy TLC.”

Darlene loved sports and played in a steel drum band at school that was planning a trip to Jamaica.

“When she was young, she thought there were monsters hiding. I told her they did not exist, but you sure proved me wrong,” Prioriello-Dawe said.

Dobson cried through most of Prioriello-Dawe’s statement, occasionally sobbing loudly, his wide shoulders hunched in a too-tight blue suit, his ears burning red.

Prioriello-Dawe’s daughter, Terri Prioriello, and niece, Tia Prioriello, also read their own statements in which they begged the parole board to deny Dobson’s request for full or day parole.

Terri Prioriello, who has launched a website (www.nofreedomdobson.com) to fight Dobson’s release and to campaign for parole hearings to be held every five years instead of every two, reminded Dobson that her family is also serving a life sentence and will never get parole.

“Do life with us and do your sentence of life, so you don’t leave us feeling cheated,” she said and stared hard at her sister’s killer. The six-foot-one man stared at the table in front of him, his head bowed.

Prioriello described how the murder destroyed her family.

She said her father lost all ability to love and care about his children while her mother lost the ability to comfort them into believing that everything would always turn out all right.

“I fear for my life and my family’s life upon his release and it is my opinion that I should fear him, as should any other woman on the streets,” she said.

In a taunting letter he wrote to police about Darlene’s murder, Dobson said he picked Darlene up at a bus stop in Mississauga before he drove her to the factory and raped, tortured and killed her.

In a confession he later gave to police, he said he took Darlene’s lighter and gold chain, put it in a zip-lock bag, brought it to a library and instructed staff to give it to police.

He also called employees of the factory where he had killed Darlene and told them there was a bomb in the building, that they would die and that there was a dead girl on the property.

While police were at the scene, Dobson visited them and asked them if they had caught the killer, which led them to watch him. A week later, they pulled him over and found a brick in his vehicle that had some of Darlene’s hair and blood on it.

Terri Prioriello said yesterday that Dobson exhibited all the classic signs of a serial killer.

She suggested the brick was kept as a gruesome trophy and she reminded the panel that Dobson had pledged to kill another girl in the same way a year after murdering Darlene. She also cited a Toronto Star article that quoted one of Dobson’s sisters saying he used to torture and maim small animals.

“Dolly was his next trophy,” Prioriello said.

Dobson argued that he hunted as a youth, that he was supervised by adults and he suggested his actions with animals while hunting had been misconstrued.

He said he hunted groundhogs to help with local pest control and that he may have teased another young person with a dead partridge. He denied that the brick was a trophy and said it was used as a mechanical aid to help the engine turn over.

“The brick was put on the accelerator to get the car going,” he said.

He spoke remarkably articulately for a man who never finished high school on the outside.

The board didn’t release its full decision for its rejection of Dobson’s application, but board vice-chairman Robert Plain said Dobson hurt his case because he failed to make the board understand what led him to commit murder.

“I’m not sure you [understand], either, at this point,” Plain said. Dobson argued he’s been consumed by his guilt, that he is no longer capable of hurting anyone and he deserves to be released.

“I feel horrible about it. I feel terrible about it. I’m 100-per-cent accountable and my actions have brought all this about,” he said. “At the same time, I feel I am deserving of the opportunity to move forward.”

Dobson sat motionless after Plain released the board’s decision after a short recess.

The Prioriello family shuffled out of the hearing room quietly until they reached the hallway.

“There is a God,” Helen Prioriello-Dawe exclaimed with an audible sigh.

Dobson was ushered out of a separate door where he hugged a male, described by parole board staff as a family member, and other supporters before returning to his quarters at medium-security Bath Institution. He has lived there since 2000.

In the prison cafeteria, the Prioriello family also hugged one another as well as a handful of supporters who had attended the hearing.

Among them were Gananoque residents John and Sally Gardner and their daughter Carolyn Gardner who may have to go through the same experience as the Prioriellos next year.

The Gardners’ daughter, Sheryl Gardner, a successful 20-year-old Toronto fashion model, was beaten to death with a hammer in 1981 by Bath inmate Ralph Power, who will be up for a parole hearing next year. Power waived his right to a hearing last year.

Carolyn Gardner said her family came to support the Prioriellos, but also to prepare for Power’s hearing.

“We know one day we could be doing this exact same thing where we have to face the man who killed Sheryl,” she said.

Like the Prioriello family, the Gardners have launched their own website, www.powernoparole.ca, to spread awareness about their daughter’s murder.

farmstrong@thewhig.com

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