Well, that didn’t take long.
Melissa Todorovic, the “puppet-master” who pulled the strings in the murder of teenager Stefanie Rengel, is back behind bars — a mere four months after being granted day parole.
Two sources have confirmed to the Star that Todorovic has recently been returned to stir for violating parole conditions, which included a requirement that the 26-year-old disclose any romantic relationship to her parole officer.
Neither the parole board nor the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener would verify that Todorovic is once again on the inside, citing privacy rules.
But both of Stefanie’s parents have been notified of the development.
Her father Adolfo Rengel, a courts officer, said that a warrant of apprehension and suspension had recently been issued by Todorovic’s parole officer.
“We were told she’s back in Grand Valley awaiting a 30 days review from a parole officer to decide whether her day parole will be denied or resumed,” Rengel told the Star in an email. “There was a warrant for her arrest about two weeks ago, (the) warrant was executed and she was taken to Vanier until, I believe, (last Friday), then transferred back to Grand Valley.”
Vanier Centre for Women is located in Milton.
But Rengel already had his concerns about Todorovic, who, as per her parole conditions, was barred from coming within a kilometre of Rengel’s relatives.
“It never ends with her,” said an exasperated Rengel, who lives in Ajax. Around Christmas, he learned Todorovic would be spending the holidays with her family, also in the Ajax area. “I said, no way. If this happens I will go to the media. My kids are so afraid Todorovic will come and hurt them. Then Corrections decided to keep her in house arrest type for those days.”
The trouble with Todorovic would only come as a surprise to the parole board members who released her to a halfway house in November, based largely on the glowing review received from her parole officer, Angie Strome.
Strome assured the two-member panel that, while Todorovic was still working on empathy issue, she had made significant strides in dealing with jealousy and rage, understanding what led her, at age 15, to mastermind — order — her then-boyfriend to murder Stefanie. The officer stressed that Todorovic would never have the opportunity to enter into a heterosexual romantic relationship while remaining at the institution and had few options left by way of treatment programs.
It should be noted that, at the hearing, Todorovic outright lied about two matters: that there had been no sex booty call with the boyfriend, David Bagshaw, for a job well done — stabbing Stefanie outside her home on New Year’s Day 2008, leaving the 14-year-old to bleed out in a snowbank, details which constituted part of the trial evidence; and that she’d met Stefanie once before the killing (they’d never met, also made clear at trial).
Indeed, the panel was not overly impressed with how Todorovic conducted herself at the hearing. “You didn’t do so well today,” lead member Bruce Malcolm tutted.
Yet, despite several further inconsistencies and contradictions, the panel deliberated a mere 15 minutes before granting Todorovic full day parole for six months, after which her status was to be reviewed. That meant she was able to move immediately into a Brampton halfway house. Todorovic, over the previous year, had enjoyed three 72-hour unescorted absences and had for several months been permitted to work outside the facility, returning at night.
Todorovic was convicted in 2009 for masterminding the murder of Stefanie, who was the target of her intense, maddened jealousy. Stefanie had earlier had a brief, platonic relationship with Bagshaw, before Todorovic arrived on the scene. A kind girl, Stefanie had rushed out of her house after receiving a phone call from Bagshaw on that January day — “Meet me! Meet me!” He was hiding in the bushes, clutching an eight-inch kitchen knife, with which he stabbed Stephanie six times.
“Is she dead?” Todorovic demanded to know when Bagshaw, then days shy of his 18th birthday, raced to her home to claim his sexual reward. First, however, Todorovic made Bagshaw re-enact the murder.
Within hours, both teenagers were arrested and charged with first-degree murder under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. They were ultimately sentenced as adults with life terms for both, parole eligibility for Bagshaw after 10 years, seven years for Todorovic, the maximum sentence available for a 15-year-old, which Todorovic had been at the time of the murder.
In deciding to sentence Todorovic as an adult, Justice Ian Nordheimer said, “The puppet-master is not less blameworthy than the puppet. Indeed, I would suggest that the master is more culpable since he or she puts the wheels in motion and then stands back under a façade of disassociation while the scheme that they have created unfolds.”
It was a sensational trial, among the first where social media played a prominent role in an Ontario courtroom. Todorovic had inundated her love-sap boyfriend with phone calls, upwards of 50,000 MSN messages and thousands of texts, demanding that Bagshaw kill Stefanie or she’d cut him off sex: “Ur getting blocked until u kill her.”
Todorovic flummoxed psychiatrists — both defence and prosecution — at trial. Each side agreed she was a “unique” offender who displayed anti-social tendencies in her intimidate relationships but otherwise functioned normally. Fundamentally, though, they just didn’t get her. Or failed to see through her chimera of contrition. A court-appointed shrink testified that Todorovic would be dangerous only in intimate or domestic relationships, and that any potential future victims would likely be “intimate partners, third parties and possibly children.”
The young woman has insistently maintained that she never expected Bagshaw would actually kill Stefanie, a claim belied by the text messages. At an earlier parole board hearing — in 2017, when she was granted the unescorted passes — Todorovic stunned everyone present by revealing she’d asked Bagshaw to kill at least two other perceived rivals. “I wanted to see how far I could push this guy. I manipulated him into doing what I wanted.”
And there was another similar compulsion, involving a previous boyfriend. She’d asked him to kill a girl simply because he’d been seen conversing with her.
Not disquieting enough, however, to trip up her unescorted pass bid.
Todorovic was actually parole eligible in 2015 but the whole process had been delayed by her appeal — automatic in first-degree murder. The Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the conviction in 2014.
At the hearing this past November, Stefanie’s mom, Patricia Hung — the parents are long-divorced, remarried with younger children — delivered an emotional victim impact statement, describing how she’d been “broken” inside since losing her daughter. Retired from a 25-year-career as a Toronto cop, Hung expressed her doubts about Todorovic’s prospects for rehabilitation.
“I do not see a changed person in Melissa. I see someone who has become more cunning, hoping with those few words of so-called remorse that she is fooling those who should have the experience to see through them. I do not hear empathy here, except for herself.”
Todorovic’s de facto position has always been to kill or have killed. Not a word she speaks can be believed.
Fooled them all right.
Rosie DiManno is a columnist based in Toronto covering sports and current affairs. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno