Murder: SummarySuch A Good Boy: How A Pampered Son’s Greed Led to Murder: Summary
18 year old Darren Huenemann of Saanich, British Columbia seemed to be a
model student, friend, son and grandson. His mother Sharon called him the
“perfect gentleman”, as did most of the community around him. When his
grandmother Doris made out her will in 1989, she made it so her daughter Sharon
would receive half of her $4 million dollar estate, and Darren the other half.
At the same time Sharon updated her will to include Darren as the beneficiary of
her estate. If they ever came to harm and died, he would be a very rich young
man. In the fall of 1989, Darren Huenemann decided that he wanted to be that
very rich young man now.
The book, Such A Good Boy: How A Pampered Son’s Greed Led to Murder,
written by Lisa Hobbs Birnie, starts out with a profile of the characters
involved in the brutal tale. First is Doris Kryciak Leatherbarrow, born in
Calder, Saskatchewan in 1920. Doris grew up in poverty, the oldest of seven
children in the farming family. Doris was a good student when she went to school,
but quit at fifteen and worked at school. She married George Artemenko, a
shipyard worker, and became pregnant soon after. She gave birth to Sharon Doreen
in March of 1943. This daughter never knew her father; George died in a fall at
work three months after the birth of his child. This left Doris alone and
knowing that she needed to do something to support her child. After the war, she
landed a job with the newly formed Unemployment Services in the Vancouver area,
where she raised enough money to complete one of her dreams: own her own dress
shop. She married again to Rene Leatherbarrow, and expanded her dress shop to a
large fashion warehouse with four stores.
Next explained in the book is Sharon Doreen Leatherbarrow. She grew up
under a mother that was always working, and a father that was usually away on
business excursions. She learned how to manipulate her mother using guilt to
receive what her young heart desired. She married three times: the second
wedding yielding a son named Darren Charles, and the third wedding to Ralph
Huenemann lasted until her death. Sharon usually lived off her mother’s wealth,
but was later put on the payroll by Doris when Doris needed assistance in her
The last character explained is Darren Charles Huenemann. He grew up in
almost constant attention from his mother and “beloved gran” Doris. Birnie
states, “By the time he was in the third grade he had learned the rules… He
had to be clean, polished, polite, under control, understanding, and always very
nice to other people.” (Birnie, p 51) Darren interacted differently with his
peers at younger ages: he didn’t engage in physical sport often, but was popular
due to is financial status. He became involved with a group of role-players in
the popular game “Dungeons and Dragons”. Here he let some of his true feelings
loose: the desire to rebel, the violence and rudeness he kept inside, and the
tendencies he had to kill his grandmother Doris.
The book then turns to a chronological telling of the events, starting
with the drafting of the wills of Doris and Sharon. This seemed to be a turning
point for young Darren, who stepped up his ideas around his peers. He confronted
two of his friends, David Muir, and Derik Lord, both 16 years old. These youths,
although pleasant enough around their families, had already dealt in illegal
activities, smuggling lethal knives into Canada from a post office box in
Washington State. He promised them rewards for killing his grandmother and
mother. For David, a cabin in the woods, a new car and about 100,000 dollars.
For Derik, he would become Darren’s bodyguard, and also receive land and money
for weapons. They agreed, and decided after weeks of thinking over the problem
that the easiest way to kill the pair would be when Sharon visited Doris in
nearby Tsawwassen. They would break in, wait for the pair, then club them and
slit their throats.
Darren, in the meantime, had become delusional. He staged a play at his
school called “Caligula”, a play about a Roman emperor who symbolizes absolute
freedom and consummate evil. He began to speak of ruling small countries, and
reveled his murderous plans to his girlfriend, Amanda Cousins. She did not tell
anyone about the plot, for she feared that Darren would kill her as well.
After a botched attempt two weeks before, Derik and David entered the
house of Doris Leatherbarrow on October 5th, 1990, stating they were Darren’s
friends stopping by. Sharon put two more helpings of dinner into the microwave.
Derik and David then struck the two with their concealed crowbars, and used
kitchen knives to slit their throats. They overturned furniture and emptied
drawers in an attempt to make it look like a botched break and enter. Darren and
Amanda picked them up after their ferry ride, and Darren drove his friends home,
then returned to his house to “wait for his mother’s return”.
The police had other suspects, such as business associates, but Darren
had the motive of greed and so they asked around in his circle of friends,
including Lords, Muir and Cousins. Darren hired lawyers for the three youths,
which fueled the suspicions. Then, after a period of questioning, the police
made a move. They moved on David Muir, finding inconsistencies in his stories.
David cracked; he gave a full confession. However, this was not admissible
evidence, but it confirmed the fears of the investigators that Darren had brutal
planned the whole thing. They then went to Amanda, who also gave her account on
the night of the murders in exchange for Crown Witness status. This was the
evidence the police needed. They arrested Muir, Lords and Heunemann for first
While Heunemann could be tried in an adult court since he was 18, the
other two boys were only 16, which meant a hearing to see if they should be
lifted to adult court as well. Issues here included the reform possibilities of
the two, their mental health, the harshness of adult prisons, and the severity
of the brutal slayings. It was concluded that both should be tried in an adult
court, and that no protection from the Young Offenders Act should be offered.
In the Heunemann trial, the crown lawyer Sean Madigan knew that
reasonable doubt and presumption of innocence would be his obstacles, and that
defense lawyer Chris Considine would use these tactics and clauses to win his
case. Pictures of the victims, character witnesses against Darren and a few of
Darren’s friends from “Dungeons ; Dragons” game sessions were the prosecution’s
tools to try to convict Darren. Darren’s friends all testified that he had been
known to say that he wanted to “snap his gran’s neck”. Amanda Cousins
testified that Darren had shared his plans with her all along. Defense lawyer’s
attacked her credibility, citing that she had lied to police numerous times
during questioning, and that her testimony was a way of revenge against Darren
for ending their relationship. In their final arguments, both the Crown and the
defense used elements of Amanda’s testimony to strengthen their case.
The jury, after only three hours after retiring, decided to believe
Amanda Cousins and delivered a guilty verdict on both counts of murder against
Darren Huenemann. The judge sentenced Darren to imprisonment for life without
eligibility for parole for 25 years. At this, Darren Heunemann, calm throughout
the trial, dropped his mask, and cursed the judge, the court, and the world.
In the cases of Muir and Lord, the same elements, presumption of
innocence and reasonable doubt, were used by the defense to try to acquit their
clients. For Lord, he also had a statement by his mother, Elouise Lord, claiming
that Derik was home for the evening on October 5, 1990. The Crown drew upon
Amanda Cousins’s testimony again to describe the events of that evening, as well
as two young eye witnesses that placed the pair in the neighbourhood that night.
The taxi driver who drove the pair to the neighbourhood, who had identified the
pair at the first hearing, not wasn’t so sure about the pair, vaguely
remembering the youths. The defense jumped on this, hoping to raise doubt in the
jury. Curiously enough, the defense for Muir offered no evidence for their
client, only using the presumption of innocence in the closing arguments. The
jury did not know of the confession, since it was unadmissable by law, but the
evidence was still overwhelming.
The jury, after a night and morning of deliberation, returned guilty
verdicts for both boys. They asked, however, that the boys be afforded some
protection by the Young Offenders Act, in that they be eligible for parole
earlier than the usual 25 years. The judge sentenced the two to life
imprisonment with parole available after 10 years of their sentence.
The last two convictions, after the Lord family’s appeal was turned down
by the Appeal Court of British Columbia, were the end of the brutal tale. Birnie
then makes the comment, “As they walk out of the courtroom… it is clear the
schoolboys have gone forever and hard-time inmates… are fast emerging.”
(Birnie, p 268)
Lisa Hobbs Birnie is a career journalist and has written other books
such as I Saw Red China; India, India; Love And Liberation; Running Towards
Life; and A Rock And A Hard Place. Prior to living in Canada, she worked as a
reporter in her Native Australia, then in England, and in the United States. She
now lives on an offshore island in British Columbia, where she studies cases and
In Birnie’s attempt to capture the elements of the case and deliver them
without bias and with integrity, one can see she has succeeded in most areas.
She used perspectives from almost every angle, and combined them with equal
criticism and judgment.
The book is divided into logical parts, each outlining a certain aspect
of the case, such as profiles of the main players, the outline of the plan, and
the separate trials. However, save mentioning the people who said certain
statements, she does not reference the trial at all or any other books with a
reference page. However, it does state that she spent “countless hours at the
hearings and trials” in the cover notes of the book, therefore this shows she
have first-person experience of the case.
Lisa Hobbs Birnie doesn’t really argue the case. She only relates the
facts as she saw them. However, she does make a few points of interest. She
seems to disagree with certain aspects of the Young Offenders Act, stating, “
it’s the judge’s assessment of the mind-state of the offender that can result in
either a treatment-orientated three-year slap on the wrist, or 25 years… as a
lifer.” (Birnie, p 180) This may show that Birnie feels that the Act is too
lenient on the more serious crimes. Also, she shows her ideals on psychiatrists
and psychologists, stating they work in a “grey area”, while law students,
lawyers and experts live in only in black and white. This can cause great rifts
in a courtroom; with lawyers wanting a “yes or no”, while the psychologist can
only give “maybes”. (Birnie, 182)
In a similar case, Steve Wayne Benson, son of the wealthy Benson family
who accumulated wealth in the Tobacco Industry. He too, was shielded, protected
and dominated by his powerful family. (Leyton, p 59) He planted bombs inside his
parents van and destroyed them himself. The difference in the case is that the
accused was older, all of 34 years. The motive, and the delusions, are the same.
Greed, and the idea that the money will give him ultimate power. (Leyton, pp 40-
43) He was sentenced to life imprisonment without any chance of parole, mostly
because of his age and his unrepentant attitude. (Leyton, p 83) Another case is
the one of the Japanese son Sawanoi who butchered his parents because they
didn’t agree with him. The youth was there, he was only 12 when he committed the
crime and would serve very little time inn Canada because of the Young Offenders
Act. However the Japanese courts put him into a mental asylum indefinitely
because of his mental state. (Leyton, 251) The motive to kill was not the same
as the Huenemann or the Benson murders.
The contribution of the Huenemann, Lord and Muir cases relate to the
Young Offenders Act. The fact that Lord and Muir were raised to an adult court
instead of a youth court. This probably happened partly because of public
pressure of the community to see justice done. Also, the life convictions, with
no parole until 10 years were done, was a harsh punishment for the 16 year olds,
however it showed that the court was not going to be lenient for just a heinous
crime. This may set a precedent for other courts to use the full extent of their
power to deliver a jurisprudent sentence, one of justice and fairness. Also a
power sentence will show that the youth, knowing exactly what they were doing,
are not above the law in their rights. Huenemann’s money and influence also was
shown to be ineffective in his attempts to become above the law. Finally, this
case gives an example of the motive of greed, purely and as evil as it gets.
This case shows that pampering a child, showering him with wealth, and
flaunting the idea that “it will all be his someday”, is a formula for disaster.
The child does not have a chance to develop his own personality, therefore puts
up “masks” and his real personality broods and grows to resent his elders.
The book, Such A Good Boy: How A Pampered Son’s Greed Led To Murder,
written by Lisa Hobbs Birnie, is a well written case review, with very little
bias or contrary opinion. It strictly relates the facts in almost every aspect.
This would be a good book for a senior law class to read and relate their ideas
on the evidence, the judgment, and the inside of the criminal mind of Darren