A man convicted of killing his son in a horrific case of child abuse will be allowed to temporarily leave prison while supervised to perform community service, which he said was part of an effort to atone for his crime.
Edward (Tony) Dooley has been granted a series of escorted absences over the course of six months from the Beaver Creek Institution, a minimum- and medium-security facility in Gravenhurst, Ont., where he is currently serving a life sentence.
In a hearing before two members of the Parole Board of Canada on Wednesday, Dooley said that while nothing can erase the harm he has caused, he sees the community work as a way to “give back something.”
“I know I’ve been described as a monster and I won’t quarrel with the description,” he said, noting that he has worked hard since his conviction to become “a better human.”
The 51-year-old was denied full parole last year, in part because he had never participated in escorted absences, which allow authorities to see how inmates behave outside prison. If released on full parole, Dooley — who is a Jamaican citizen — would be subject to a deportation order.
The board heard Dooley has been a model inmate since arriving at Beaver Creek from a maximum security facility two years ago and is considered a low risk for violent recidivism. He also obtained a high school diploma while behind bars.
Dooley, along with his wife, was convicted of second-degree murder in 2002 in the death of his son, seven-year-old Randal Dooley.
Randal was born in Jamaica and came to Canada with his brother to live with his father and stepmother in Toronto in November 1997, 11 months before his death.
He had wasted to just 41 pounds and had 13 fractured ribs, a lacerated liver, four brain injuries, and head-to-toe bruises when he died in 1998.
At the couple’s trial, it was found that Marcia Dooley had struck the fatal blow to Randal and had inflicted the vast majority of the prior abuse. She was given a life sentence with no chance of parole for at least 18 years.
Tony Dooley, meanwhile, was characterized by the judge as a “coward” for “ignoring Randal’s plight as Marcia’s whipping boy.” He received a life term with no parole for at least 13 years.
Dooley maintained Wednesday that he never saw his wife do anything worse than slap the boy, but said he should have stepped in nonetheless.
He said he only began to acknowledge his role about seven or eight years ago.
“My sons are very important to me and I have failed all of them miserably,” he said. Despite this, Dooley said he maintains a close relationship with his oldest son, who witnessed Randal’s abuse and is now in his late 20s.
Dooley, who admitted during trial to belting Randal on the buttocks, also said he no longer considers corporal punishment a valid form of discipline.
“I was ill-prepared and ill-equipped as a parent to deal with the situation,” he said. Sharing his experience could help other parents who are struggling to handle their children, he said.
“What I really want is to get a do-over but that can’t happen,” Dooley said, adding all he can do is “not repeat the mistakes of the past.”
The couple’s three-month trial made headlines across Canada as the gruesome details of Randal’s brief life came to light.
Court heard that months of abuse had left the little boy incontinent and unable to keep down food before his death. Jurors also heard that Marcia Dooley broke Randal’s arm and even forced him to eat his vomit because she didn’t want food going to waste.
Randal’s teacher noticed dozens of welts on his back at some point, which led the school to notify police and child welfare authorities, though no charges were laid at that time.
After Randal’s death in September 1998, his father and stepmother told police that the boy had tumbled from an upper bunk bed and struck his head on the floor.
The couple appealed their conviction, but their bid for a new trial was dismissed in 2009.
In 2015, Marcia Dooley was denied escorted temporary absences from prison after the parole board found her still reluctant to accept full responsibility for her crime.