Cape Breton community reacts to release of McDonald's killer
Nearly everyone of a certain age remembers where they were when they heard about the murders at the McDonald’s restaurant in Sydney River in May 1992.
Today, many Cape Breton residents are expressing their frustration that one of the killers is a free man.
When 18-year-old Darren Muise and two other men were sentenced to life in prison for the murders, many in the community felt justice had been served.
However, 20 years later, Muise has been granted full parole. The 39-year-old has also been ordered to stay away from the Sydney area.
“He’s going to be walking the streets now and the families of these victims are still in pain and suffering,” says one Sydney resident.
“I think life should mean life,” says another.
The brutal crime shocked the community. Three young employees at the restaurant had been murdered during a botched robbery, and a fourth was left permanently disabled.
Muise made a plea deal and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. He received a life sentence with eligibility for parole after 20 years.
His accomplices, Derek Wood and Freeman MacNeil, received a sentence of life with a possibility of parole after 25 years.
Manning MacDonald was the mayor of Sydney at the time. He remembers the community’s outrage.
“People thought at the time that these guys were going away for the rest of their lives, and would die of old age in prison,” says MacDonald. “But it simply doesn’t happen in the Canadian justice system.”
While Muise is out of prison, the scars of his crimes are still palpable.
The former restaurant site has been abandoned and overrun by weeds since the building was demolished.
It has been left untouched out of respect for the victims and their families, and also because it’s too close a reminder of what happened there 20 years ago.
It’s unlikely anything will be built on the site anytime soon.
As for Muise, parole board documents say he was worked hard to rehabilitate himself. It also says the antisocial personality traits that caused him to show what they called “indifference towards his victims” have softened over time.
“He served his time. Since he served his time, and followed the procedures they set forth, he’s out,” says area resident Donald Cross.
While he may be out of prison, he is forbidden from setting foot in the Sydney area ever again, which is a permanent condition of his release.
Twenty years later, the community still feels for the victims’ families.
“People realize the victims aren’t coming back. They don’t get parole after 20 years or 25 years. They’re gone,” says MacDonald. “And their families have to live with that.”
Muise is believed to be living in Quebec with his girlfriend while starting full-time work.
Wood and MacNeil, the other men convicted of murder in the case, are both eligible for parole in five years.
Arlene McNeil is the only survivor of the attack. She continues to live at home with her family.
They have seldom, if ever, commented publicly.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Ryan MacDonald