It was Christmas Eve in 1990, and 15-year-old Tammy Homolka was spending time with her older sister, Karla Homolka, and Karla’s fiancé, Paul Bernardo. She accepted a few alcoholic drinks from the couple that, unbeknownst to her, contained Halcion, a type of tranquilizer commonly used to treat insomnia. Once unconscious, Tammy was raped by her sister and Paul, a horrific event leading to her death.
Much controversy surrounds Tammy Homolka’s death, as many believe it was an accident. However, the events following Tammy’s death would reveal that the couple, deemed the “Barbie and Ken killers” by the media, had more sinister intentions.
Background of Tammy Homolka
Tammy Homolka was born on January 1, 1975, in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. She was a 10th-grade student at Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School in St. Catherine’s at the time of her death. She was known for her athletic abilities and participated in various sports, such as soccer, track and field, and cross-country running. Tammy lived with her parents, Dorothy and Karel, and her sisters, Lori and Karla.
Story of “Barbie and Ken”
From the start of Karla and Paul’s relationship, Karla noticed that Paul had particularly liked her sister Tammy. Paul referred to himself as Tammy’s “brother” and would pay extra attention to her, even taking her out on special outings without Karla present. His attraction would soon become an obsession, going as far as to have Karla pretend to be Tammy during sex.
After entering college, Paul was in several relationships, most abusive, and he got away with them all. However, everything changed when he met Karla Homolka.
The two met when Paul was 23 and Karla was just 17. The attraction between the two was instantaneous, and they started dating immediately. However, while Paul and Karla seemed to be the perfect couple to outsiders, the duo had a combative relationship behind closed doors. Paul was mentally, physically, and verbally abusive toward Karla, but despite his abuse, she stayed in the relationship.
Murder and Rape of Tammy Homolka
As Paul and Karla’s relationship progressed, he became more obsessed with young girls, and Karla worried that he might leave her, which led to the murder of Tammy Homolka. To make Paul happy, she offered her sister Tammy a Christmas present. Karla had stolen a bottle of Halothane from the veterinary clinic where she worked. On December 24, 1990, the Halcion was added to several alcoholic drinks and given to Tammy. Once sufficiently drugged, Tammy passed out in the family room, located in the basement of the Homolka home.
Soon after, Tammy began choking on her vomit and passed away. While the couple allegedly tried to revive Tammy, it was no use. Tammy’s death was initially labeled as an accident as no drugs were detected in her system during the autopsy. It wasn’t until 1993 that the case was reopened, and the truth was revealed.
While the death of Tammy Homolka was beyond tragic, Tammy wasn’t Paul’s only victim. He had been abusing women since 1984. After sadistically raping several women in Scarborough, authorities were on the search for what they called the “Scarborough Rapist. The rapes had reached eight by Christmas of 1988 and then 12 before they suddenly stopped in the spring of 1990.
Schoolgirl murders by “Barbie and Ken”
Paul’s monstrous attacks on women had slowed down after meeting Karla, but that didn’t last long. He had moved from random rapes to sexually sadistic murders, an event which was later called the “Schoolgirl Murders.” The unfortunate victims were Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French, two minors at 14 and 15 years of age.
At this time, Paul and Karla were married and living together in their own home. One day on June 14, 1991, Leslie Mahaffy was kidnapped by Paul and Karla and brought to their home, where she was held hostage for approximately 24 hours.
They were later found in Lake Gibson on June 29, 1991.
In April 1992, they kidnapped Kristen French at knifepoint in a church parking lot. They held her captive for three days, during which time they subjected her to sexual humiliation and degradation. They forced her to drink large amounts of alcohol before eventually killing her on April 19, 1992. Kristen’s naked body was found 11 days later in a ditch on the side of the road.
Aftermath of Tammy Homolka’s murder
Following the death of Tammy Homolka, Paul and Karla’s appetite for murder only grew stronger. They continued to rape and murder women throughout the Scarborough, Ontario, area for several years until their relationship began to fizzle out. Karla had divorced Paul after he had beaten her with a flashlight.
Soon after, DNA evidence found in relation to Kristen French was recovered. Police found that the DNA evidence matched those of other rapes in the area. The couple was arrested in 1993, and their connection to Tammy’s death was uncovered.
Paul was convicted of multiple offenses, including two aggravated sexual assaults and two first-degree murder charges. He was ultimately sentenced to life in prison without parole for at least 25 years on September 1, 1995.
The Controversial Case of Karla Homolka: Convicted Murderer or Victim of Abuse?
On July 6, 1993, Karla Homolka was sentenced to 12 years in prison for the part she played in the three murders. Her defense lawyer negotiated for a 10-year sentence for Karla in exchange for her testimony, in addition to full disclosure of all the crimes committed by the couple.
In March of 1993, she wrote a letter to her parents confessing her involvement in Tammy’s death. Tammy’s body was exhumed on July 20, 1993, and inside the casket, police found a wedding invitation for Karla and Paul’s wedding and some notes from Karla and Paul.
Karla was released from prison in 2005 and remarried. She is now the mother of three children and often volunteers at their school. Karla Homolka continues to deny her direct involvement in the murders, claiming that she, too, was a victim of Paul’s abuse and was forced to partake in the rapes.
However, those who have spoken to Karla paint her in a different light. In 2001, Elm Street magazine posted an article describing Karla as a “malignant narcissist” who was so enraged by her fiancé’s attraction to her sister Tammy that she took the despicable steps necessary to remove Tammy from their lives.