ST. JOHN’S –
Greg Parsons sits across from me at a dining room table in downtown St. John’s, Newfoundland.
He flips through a large family photo album, the old-fashioned kind with plastic-covered pages that protect the photos inside.
The album holds no happy memories. Instead, it is page after page of pain and suffering.
A family photo of Greg Parsons (right) with his mother, Catherine Carroll (W5)
Greg Parsons has spent decades trying to make sense of the time the photos represent. It’s a time of unfulfilled justice. A time he wishes he could forget.
In 1991, when he was just 19 years old, Greg discovered his mother’s brutalized body in the bathroom of her apartment. Catherine Carroll had been slashed and stabbed 53 times. W5 has the audio recording of the desperate call he made to 911.
“My mother…she’s dead. She’s just on the bathroom floor. Oh my God…there’s blood everywhere.”
It should have been the worst day of Greg’s life. The fact that it wasn’t gives you an idea of just how much this man has endured.
The photo album Greg is showing me is filled with crime scene photos: His mother’s apartment, meticulously documented from every angle. The gruesome photos of what Greg saw that morning in the bathroom. His partially clothed mother — her body twisted, her face unrecognizable. And so much blood.
Greg Parsons has saved it all, along with stacks of documents, maps, transcripts and computer files for what has become a decades-long battle to get justice for his mother. And for himself.
His story, a labyrinth of twists and wrong turns, is the subject of a W5 one-hour special. We have unearthed hours of archival footage, viewed secretly-recorded police stings and interviewed key players in a saga that began 31 years ago and continues to this day.
On January 10, 1991 — eight days after finding his mother’s body — Greg Parsons was charged with her murder. He was convicted in a trial that focused largely on gossip and a song that Greg and some of his friends had written called “Kill Your Parents.”
Screenshot from file footage of Greg Parsons in court (W5)
It would take years for science to clear him and to catch the real killer — a man named Brian Doyle — once Greg’s good friend.
Greg Parsons says the justice system failed his mother, firstly for wrongfully convicting her own son, and secondly for allowing the real murderer, Brian Doyle, to plead guilty to a lesser charge of second degree murder.
In 2003, Doyle was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 18 years, a sentence he unsuccessfully tried to have reduced.
In 2003, Brian Doyle was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 18 years, a sentence he unsuccessfully tried to have reduced (screenshot from file footage)
Greg believes there was ample evidence that the crime was premediated and sexual in nature and that Doyle should have gone to trial on a charge of first degree murder.
That evidence comes in the form of a secret recording of Brian Doyle during an undercover police sting where Doyle is seen callously bragging about the killing. In the video he describes sneaking out of a party unnoticed wearing someone else’s shoes and returning to the party after committing the crime.
Parsons says a retired police officer gave him the videotapes about seven years ago but he couldn’t bring himself to watch them until he was preparing for Doyle’s first parole hearing, four years ago:
“I was like, oh my God, I can’t believe what I am looking at. I can’t believe the lengths…the Crown’s office went through to manufacture me as the murderer and here they’ve got the guy with motive, means, opportunity and meticulous planning…and he was given a sweetheart deal for second degree murder.”
Because there was no trial, the tapes have never been entered into evidence. W5’s documentary will be the first time the Canadian public will see the video.
Brian Doyle has served 20 years behind bars. In 2020 he was granted day parole, but it was revoked the following year after he failed to disclose a relationship to his parole officer.
In August, 2022, Doyle was back before the parole board, where, for the first time, he acknowledged that the crime was sexually motivated, telling the hearing it was “sexual rejection” that triggered his rage.
The board granted Doyle a conditional release to take part in a three-month rehabilitation program. If successful, Doyle will then, again, be able to apply for full parole.
For Greg Parsons, it’s a never-ending nightmare. Surrounded by decades of evidence, he tells me: “I fear for the world because he’s a manipulative, pathological liar. He has not been rehabilitated. He never got properly punished for his crime. He’s not going to be out for more than a year and he’ll be back in. And I hope it’s not for murder or rape. I don’t want to be the person to say ‘I told you so’.”
Watch W5’s documentary ‘The Murderer’s Best Friend’ on Saturday at 7pm on CTV