I’ve seen a lot of terrible things in the last 20 years of covering court and crime, but only a few truly terrible people.
I know a lot of other reporters, maybe cops, lawyers and judges won’t agree with me, but I draw a solid distinction between the horrifying things people can do and the people who do them.
I once watched a bone-thin woman in tears explain to a judge that she stabbed a man in the back with a steak knife in downtown Kelowna because she knew she needed to commit a serious crime so she could go to jail long enough to get help getting off crack cocaine.
I wasn’t here when the young man took an innocent woman hostage in her own vehicle while escaping police for some minor offence, but I was nearly reduced to tears when I read the child protection reports detailing the lifetime of horrible abuse he suffered before he was killed by police in that incident.
Behind every crime, there’s another side of the story and it’s often as bad or worse than the crime they just committed. Nine times out of ten, the crime that puts them in jail for life was inevitable. It can be explained by severe drug or alcohol abuse, mental illness or abusive backgrounds most of us could never fathom.
It doesn’t excuse their crime, just the way I see it.
That’s why I typically don’t often write about victims of crime. Of course, I have immense sympathy for them but their insights and blind anger are often predictable, uninformed, shallow, self-centred and not at all useful to the greater good of understanding crime and the criminal. That's how we try to ensure this person gets help so it doesn’t happen again.
And because that kind of rage should be reserved for the rare people who truly deserve it.
Like Keith Wiens. This case is different.
What he did was bad enough. In Penticton in 2011, he shot an unarmed woman point-blank in the face in his own home in a domestic dispute solely of his own making.
But there’s no story behind him, nothing redeeming for this man. He was successful, managed to retire as an RCMP officer. There’s no evidence of mental illness, no suggestion of drug use or alcohol abuse. He wasn’t drunk that night. It wasn’t even close to an accident. He's not a gang member, he didn't have anything to gain from it. He can’t even claim to be a sociopath or a psychopath.
He wasn’t so angry about something he was dissociated. He wasn’t provoked.
The best we can tell, once we push past his lies, is he fought with his partner, Lynn Kalmring, over money. And it’s not like he didn’t have enough of it. They owned a home in an upscale seniors village in Penticton, had a summer home in Arizona. He collected a $3,000 per month pension as a Mountie and had a second income as a bus driver.
All we know for sure is when police searched the home for evidence, a ring he gave her was on a counter along with $2,005 in U.S. bills.
Wiens had extensive firearms training, well-practiced in keeping cool under pressure, firing only at targets. He knew exactly what he was doing that night.
Before he called police to report his deed, he put a kitchen knife in her hand. The notion of Lynn Kalmring turning violent is absurd to anyone who knew her, according to evidence at trial.
During her funeral — while he was on bail in their Penticton home — he put all of Kalmring’s things in garbage bags and dumped it on her daughter’s lawn.
This was a woman who loved him and wanted nothing more than his love. Just read this poem she wrote. That he killed the woman who wrote this alone must earn him some vile distinction.
But it gets far, far worse. Wiens had two years before his 2013 trial to cook up his story of what happened that night and this is what reveals his true character because we all know crazy things can happen in the heat of the moment but this is where true deliberation is done.
He chose the most absurd concoction of what they fought about that night, told her family and a bunch of strangers in an open courtroom that she was angry because he wouldn’t have sex with her that night.
This, despite knowing Kalmring’s sister would testify that Lynn called her an hour before she died and told her they were fighting about money. The money was on the counter. A letter describing this issue was found in the home. Keith was obsessed about it in the weeks and months before the event.
He argued self defence, because of the knife he put in her hand. He was convicted, of course, and tried to appeal and appeal again, losing both times.
Now, presumably because he’s a former police officer and had no previous criminal record, he is in a medium security institution that affords him the time to make life as miserable as possible for Kalmring’s family.
His obsession with money continues: He has fought for five years in court for the houses and other assets they shared as a couple.
At the civil trial, he wants to continue to dispute his guilt. He wants to represent himself, stare down, question and cross examine Lynn’s children and sisters who have suffered immensely at his hands.
In 20 years, I can recall only three cases among thousands that come even close to this: No remorse, no excuse, not a single redeeming quality.
Keith Wiens is in a small class of truly despicable people.
— Marshall Jones is the editor of iNFOnews.ca