January 9, 2010
Lori Kooger is shown in a photo from Perfspot.comPerfspot.com photo
There was a time when Lori Kooger was head over heels in love with Paul Bernardo.
He was her celebrity idol.
These days, the now 44-year-old widowed mother of three is herself accused of being a sexual predator and stalker of underage boys.
From courthouse groupie to jailhouse custody, awaiting trial on charges of sexual interference, sexual assault and invitation to sexual touching involving two youths, one of whom is only 12.
Kooger’s crush on the notorious schoolgirl killer brought her 15 minutes of fame in the mid-90s, her obsession with the then-charged but not yet convicted rapist and murderer garnering wide media attention, fame-by-proxy, with stories in local newspapers, a profile in Chatelaine magazine and an appearance on the American tabloid TV show, A Current Affair.
Unemployed and engaged to the much older man she would ultimately marry — he was killed in an industrial workplace accident in 2007 — Kooger was Lori Brown back then, a constant googly-eyed presence at Bernardo’s court appearances in St. Catharines and later Toronto.
On one occasion, when Bernardo appeared to nod and smile at her from the defendant’s box, Kooger was giddy with pleasure. “Do you think Paul knows me now?’’ she asked a reporter. “I want him to know who I am. I want him to know I exist.”
For a woman whose own personal history to that point seemed entirely normal — well, maybe apart from the fact that an entry in her Beamsville high school yearbook claimed she aspired to become either personal maid to Queen Elizabeth or nanny for the Royal Family — the rapture with Bernardo was inexplicable.
She wrote long letters several times a week to the defendant, which he may or may not have received. She kept newspaper clippings in neat, commemorative albums. She once waved at him, shouting: “Paulie!’’ She dyed her hair to reflect Bernardo’s preference for blondes. She told friends she’d been in contact with Bernardo’s family. She told reporters she dreamed of marrying the accused, despite her engagement to Peter Kooger, who routinely accompanied his girlfriend to court, the two lining up as early as 4 a.m. to grab a good seat.
Kooger couldn’t articulate her infatuation, either. “Everybody asks me why, but I can’t answer that. I don’t know myself.”
She did remember, however, when her bewitchment with Bernardo began. “I’ll never forget the day he was arrested,’’ she told Chatelaine. “I was watching The Young and the Restless and a news flash came on.’’
That very day, Kooger made a pilgrimage to the Port Dalhousie house Bernardo lived in with his wife, Karla Homolka, and returned to the spot so often afterwards that she feared getting in trouble with police.
But she was, then, merely a killer groupie; there are plenty among that particularly weird breed.
It wasn’t until some time in late 2009 that Kooger became a person of interest to police for alleged crimes of her own. Just over a year ago, she was charged by Durham Regional Police with sex-related offences involving a 12-year-old boy.
Police in Niagara were contacted by Durham colleagues and urged to take a closer look at Kooger’s activities because she lived in their jurisdiction. “She hadn’t been on anyone’s radar here,’’ an investigator with knowledge of the Niagara case told the Star on Sunday.
Kooger was charged last month with sexual offences relating to the alleged assault of a young boy in Niagara between September 2004 and July 2009.
Her three sons — aged 12, 11 and 6 — have been removed by child welfare authorities. Though bail was available on the original set of Durham charges, she was apparently unable to secure surety.
It is unclear how Kooger met either of the boys she is accused of sexually assaulting or the nature of her relationship with the youths. Sexual crimes by females against young boys are a rare occurrence.
“She’s a bit creepy, that’s for sure,’’ an investigator told the Star. “She’s more like a teenager in terms of liking to be around young kids. She seems to have missed the fact that she’s a woman in her 40s.’’
Last month, a new officer to the case began scouring social networking sites. Kooger is an active participant on a whole bunch of them, posting many photos of herself (including one with a young boy) and listing among her “likes’’ a fondness for Justin Bieber.
To repeat, this is a 44-year-old woman.
Someone has posted a mildly pornographic photo on one of Kooger’s web pages.
All the charges Kooger now faces have yet to be tested in court. A pre-trial motions hearing on the Niagara charges was adjourned last week in St. Catharines, the judge informed by both Crown and defence attorneys that there had been recent developments in the case.
Perhaps some yearning Kooger-groupie will now take the same freaky interest in her that she developed for Bernardo all those years ago.
Male-on-female felon-stalking is far less common than the other way around, though. It is primarily women who initiate relationships with men in prison, according to experts in this little-studied field.
Theories for attraction to the most violent and sadistic killers abound: Some are fascinated with the heinous side of human nature, some are attracted to dangerous “bad boys,’’ some are known as “nurturers’’ or believe in the innocence of their love-targets and some are enthralled by the control they wield over boyfriends behind bars.
On occasion, these relationships grow serious enough that jailhouse weddings occur.
Satanic serial murderer Richard Ramirez — better known as the Nighstalker — married a freelance magazine editor. Lyle and Eric Menendez, convicted in the shotgun slayings of their parents, both wed “pen-pals’’ in prison. Hillside Stranglers Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono were married in prison as well. Even serial killers John Wayne Gacy and Ted Bundy developed “committed relationships’’ awaiting execution.
In Germany last year, a woman who’d cultivated romance followed by marriage with a man serving a life sentence for raping and killing a child was herself murdered by him during a conjugal visit.
Paul Bernardo is unlikely to ever get those, should he some day marry one of his addled fans.
Lori Kooger is apparently no longer among that adoring girl posse, however.
As she told a reporter a few years ago, she is so over Paul.
Rosie DiManno usually appears Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.