I've been reading about true crime, and dreaming of being a criminologist, since I was 12. Not so strange these days, but in the past, I'm sure it all looked differently. Over the years, in pursuit of my girl mind-hunter dream, I've read about and seen some awful things which age won't soften. The worst I've seen is the aftermath of an untimely decision made by a young man with a gun. The worst I've read about are the crimes of Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka.

Why this case? I've chased the question round and round. Soon as I managed to isolate that one most despicable thing, something more despicable would usurp it. Was it the story itself, the handling of the case, the mishandling of the case, was it him, was it her, it all just swirled around my head as it must have the Canadian people's, when they finally became privy to the details. The passage of time has not muted interest in this nightmare; banning the public from the details naturally heightened curiosity about what could possibly be so bad.

Now we know it was all far worse than anyone imagined. And now those of us still recovering from the shock can plunder at our leisure through every disgusting detail, like detectives who have the luxury of time because there's no expectation of privacy once trash hits the street.

But why this case?

Everyone has their own answer, but for most that answer revolves around the princess in this grim fairy tale, Ms. Karla Homolka. She's variously described as a compliant victim, a predator, Paul Bernardo's willing or unwilling sex slave, a diagnostic mystery and an enigma. What keeps everyone guessing past the time they have the answer is an idea, from childhood perhaps, that evil cannot possibly look so pleasing. Or the more horrific notion that this evil is housed in a body capable of reproduction.

For me, there are no more cycles of thought on Ms. Homolka; I no longer endlessly question what she is, and I don't particularly care what biological or environmental events made her that way. Unlike most other women who partner up with violent men, there's no evidence in her past of neglect, of having been dropped on her head one too many times, nothing. And nothing is what explains her, and is inside her; a permanent nothing which time won't heal. For myself I have adequately cleared up that pesky enigma-thing, and I wonder about Paul Bernardo.

Oh, I don't mean in some behavioral-profiling way; that ship's fairly well sailed. It's no great trick to pick up the pieces of that man's life and put together a Paul-Bernardo-puzzle. What does bother me, as much as Ms. Homolka bothers others, is why, if he is no diagnostic mystery, if his behavior, while brutal, is so in keeping with a thousand psychopaths before him, why is it necessary for us, the public, to maintain that image of him? If we must forever grapple with the question of Homolka, why is Paul Bernardo written in stone?

It hasn't been so long since Ms. Homolka's release from prison; what with a toddler now, it's possible we won't be hearing quite so much in the years to come. Since there's no going back and you can't grow a soul, she'll never have the benefit or burden of that human necessity. But maybe she won't repeat the past, and maybe if she doesn't she'll win some more converts to her side. With time it's possible, even for Karla Homolka. It will never happen for Paul Bernardo.

It will never happen. In spite of his protests at trial that he never killed anyone; in spite of the fact we know we can't trust Homolka any farther than we'd like to throw her; in spite of the fact he's got nowhere to go but up and nothing else to do but improve, it will never happen. Because as necessary as it seems to be to endlessly debate and remain undecided about Karla's character and motive, it will always be as necessary to write off Paul Bernardo as unchangeable, and as fixed in time as he is in his cell. We'll never take a chance on him; we have ascribed him permanency as a dark, mythic figure, far more the evil prince than his evil princess. Now that Karla's a mother and all, we'll make room for her possible character expansion, and we'll comfort ourselves with the thought that never will we be so foolish as to extend the same opportunity to that animal she once married.

And time will usher in another century, with new and enlightened theories as to what gave rise to the next Paul Bernardo.