Convicted murderer William Sandeson is looking for a pen pal.
It’s the second time the 25-year-old Lower Truro native has posted his profile on Canadian Inmates Connect Inc, a controversial website that offers Canadians an opportunity to write letters to people serving sentences in federal institutions in Canada.
In his profile Sandeson, convicted of first-degree murder in the death of Taylor Samson last June, says he’s interested in corresponding with women.
The former medical student’s profile also points out that he’s currently serving a 25-year to life sentence while waiting for the outcome of an appeal of his murder conviction. The profile bears two photographs of Sandeson and indicates that he’s been busy behind bars, having completed paralegal and electrical engineering programs and nearing completion of an MBA.
“I grew up on a farm and playing lots of sports,” his profile states. “Phone access is pretty limited in maximum security so I’m looking to remain social through letters. I’m particularly interested in hearing from anyone working in or studying some form of health care but am eager to talk to people from my background.”
The website has gained its fair share of critics who say it’s evolved into a dating site and provides a dangerous vehicle for the public to be manipulated by criminals. Last July, Quebec TV reported that Luka Magnotta, a convicted murderer who made international headlines, was intending to marry a man he met through the website.
The website’s founder, Melissa Fazzina, has been running the service for the last seven years. She says it provides incarceratedCanadians an opportunity
for companionship, an element often lacking in the Canadian justice system.
“All of these people are in prison for whatever crimes they committed and I don’t believe they need to be continuously punished,” said Fazzina. “They’ve lost their freedom, they’ve lost many other things. They’re doing their time. I just think that allowing them to correspond with people on the outside who want to correspond with them is only a good thing.
“Some people are getting back out one day, so why not try to help them become better people? I’ve seen the benefits, the positive stories that come about the friendships that are developed through this website.”
Inmates in Canada have no access to the internet so must rely on pen and paper to communicate. Inmates with profiles on thewebsite fill out an application and send it to Fazzina. The website includes a disclaimer so Fazzina bears no legal responsibility in the event anything goes wrong. It also advises people not to send money to inmates.
Fazzina wouldn’t speak about whether she corresponded directly with Sandeson.
“I hope he gets what he’s looking for. He’s looking to correspond with people for friendships, preferably with the same background as him educationally, to maintain some sort of reality.”
She said in the rare cases a person has been manipulated through using the service, it’susually the person behind bars.
“There’s a lot of inmates who have been taken advantage of emotionally, financially, because they are vulnerable. All it takes is a woman to sweet talk them and they’ve lost money.”
She also said public feedback has been largely positive.
Sandeson’s lawyer, Eugene Tan, shied away from commenting specifically about the merits of the service but he did say the concept
is worthwhile. Tan also said he had no knowledge that Sandeson was using the service.
“When you read psychiatric reports they talk about factors that would ultimately assist in rehabilitation, and one of those factors is the creation of stable relationships, opening one’s mind to other thoughts,” said Tan. “From that perspective, it might be a useful thing.
Tan represented Sandeson throughout his murder trial and supports his client’s appeal. He said regardless of the outcome, Sandeson should be given a second chance.
“This is a person, before all of this happened, displayed all of the qualities that you find admirable in a person. I am saying this in the backdrop of an appeal. But you’ve got somebody who pushed himself through school working several jobs, he was a volunteer at Ronald MacDonald House, he went overseas, worked for Doctors Without Borders, an unpaid internship.
“Let’s just say that the appeal fails. Giving him an opportunity to be productive to our society should be the ultimate goal.”