Paul Bernardo, “The Scarborough Rapist,” and Karla Homolka made a deadly wedded duo. The married serial killer couple worked together to lure, torture, rape and murder adolescent girls. They videotaped their sadistic sessions, each one a little bit different from the last.
Born: August 27, 1964, Toronto, Canada and May 4, 1970, Port Credit, Canada
M.O.: Primarily strangulation or asphyxiation after plying the victim with alcohol, but a lethal dose of Halcion was also used
Signature: For Paul, psychological and sexual gratification; for Karla, an outlet for an inferiority complex and jealousy of the victims. Both sought power.
Victim Count: Paul committed 13+ rapes, at least 6 attempted rapes; Karla and Paul killed 3 out of Paul’s 4 confirmed murder victims together
Best known for: Videotaping the rape and murder of their victims; being a seemingly perfect, wealthy white married couple, hence the moniker “The Ken and Barbie Killers”
Paul Bernardo’s life of serial crime began before Karla’s. He grew up in a wealthy, suburban microcosm with a father figure that was physically and sexually abusive to Paul’s sister Debbie, among other young girls. Witnessing this, and learning that the man wasn’t his real father, set Paul’s violent and negative behavior towards women in motion. His mother’s infidelity left a deep, subconscious, psychological scar, which, coupled with the abusive behaviors of a bad male role model, drove him to hurt other women. While others under similar circumstances might have done the opposite, Paul thought violence was an acceptable way to alleviate his pain and boost his confidence. Fueled by these motivations, Paul’s terrible reign as The Scarborough Rapist began.
He followed his victims from their bus stops to secluded areas or their homes, where he attacked. After his third victim successfully fought him off, Paul’s attacks became more depraved. He sexually assaulted his next victim with a knife and stalked younger, weaker girls who were alone and less capable of fighting back. Easily overpowering them restored his damaged self-esteem. Around this time, he began dating Karla Homolka.
In 1989, soon after getting engaged, Paul told Karla about his dark, sexual desires. She was so enamored by him, and afraid of losing him, that she overlooked his unsavory qualities. A part of her may have also found his sadism arousing. When she learned that he desired her younger sister Tammy, she drugged Tammy and offered her up to her fiance as a “Christmas present.” Karla tape recorded Paul raping her sister and used Halothane to keep her unconscious. Later, from ingesting too much of the anesthetic, Tammy began vomiting and choked to death while laying on her back in her unconscious state. Because Tammy had been drinking earlier that night, neither the authorities or the family suspected foul play.
After Tammy’s death, Paul and Karla would reenact the killing of Tammy. Karla wore her sister’s clothes and they had sex on Tammy’s bed. Their depravity escalated when Paul abducted 14-year-old Leslie Mahaffy and brought her to Karla. They videotaped themselves torturing and raping her. In the heat of the moment, when Leslie’s blindfold slipped, Karla gave her a lethal dose of Halcion and Paul strangled her. Karla lured the next victim, Kristen French, by pretending to ask for directions. This time, they planned on killing her from the outset and did not bother with a blindfold. They were evolving and trekking down a path towards perfecting their methods.
After Kristen’s death, their murderous marital activities quickly came to an end. The police finally tested Paul’s DNA and arrested him. Not long before his arrest, Paul brutally beat Karla with a flashlight. Whatever delusions she had about him were shattered. Karla confessed that he was The Scarborough Rapist and the man who murdered Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French. During his interrogation, Paul took credit for the assaults but blamed Karla for the murders. Unlike serial killers like H.H. Holmes and Ted Bundy, Paul did not care about making the news or becoming a celebrity. His needs were more physical than emotional. He preferred having access to powerless victims over gaining attention through the media.
In the end, Paul Bernardo got life without parole for at least 25 years. Unfortunately, those 25 years end this year. As for Karla Homolka, she was released from jail in 2005. We can only hope that The Ken and Barbie Doll Killers do not reunite.