Rapist's release triggers tension in Saint John
The release of a serial rapist from prison to a Saint John halfway house has many community members on edge.
“They should keep them where they are,” says one Saint John resident. “Put them in one of those houses down in Halifax. They have lots of them there.”
“I worry for the south-end kids, the high school kids in the city, and I have a teenaged daughter myself, so I was very shocked to hear they would release somebody like that,” says one concerned parent.
In 1989, John Arthur O’Brien was convicted of raping eight women in Nova Scotia and sentenced to 37 years in prison.
Parole board documents indicate O’Brien is now in his early 50s. His criminal record dates back to the mid 1970s.
In the late 1980s, he was convicted of a number of offences including five counts of sexual assault with a weapon, two counts of sexual assault, and two counts of using a firearm while committing an offence.
O’Brien was dubbed the ‘motorcycle rapist’ because he was wearing a helmet and riding a motorcycle in many of the attacks, most of which occurred in rural and secluded areas in and around the Halifax area.
He qualifies for statutory release and was released from prison this week, after serving two-thirds of his 37-year sentence.
O’Brien now calls the Parrtown Community Correction Centre home, and his arrival comes just after another resident of the halfway house left without permission.
An arrest warrant has been issued for 24-year-old Brady Richard Polchies, who was serving time for robbery.
The Saint John Arts Centre has been located close to the halfway house for many years, and its executive director says there haven’t been any issues.
“To be honest, we don’t even know the halfway house is here,” says Andrew Kierstead. “It is just another building in this area of the uptown.”
He says Parrtown residents have never posed a problem in the area.
“The neighbourhood has changed. With the police station and the courthouse here, it is probably a very good fit to have the halfway house close to those facilities.”
But a recent assessment indicated O’Brien’s risk to reoffend and commit another sexual assault is in the high end of the moderate range, which has some community members on edge.
“There’s concerns. We have children and we’re concerned about our children,” says area resident Mary MacKinnon.
“I think that is what people are asking for and hoping for, is that people who are released are monitored properly and reintegrated into the community in an appropriate way, where everybody is safe and everyone has the opportunity to enjoy the community.”
Parole documents indicate O’Brien will need to be closely monitored and supervised. He has also been ordered not to contact any of his victims or their families.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Mike Cameron