Terri O'Dare has forgiven the man who murdered her daughter 20 years ago.

However, she has "no faith" in the justice system that has let him back into the community.

Jason Robert John Butler, 44, was sentenced to life in prison in 1998 for murdering his former partner, Stephanie Baker, on July 18, 1997. He slit her throat in front of their 11-month-old daughter, Baker's best friend and others at his parents' Tauranga home.

This month, the Parole Board decided to release Butler, who had paranoid schizophrenia, to live in an undisclosed location.


Ms O'Dare said she and her family, including Butler's now-grown daughter, share different emotions about what happened.

"It was horrible. It was a moment I just didn't know I would get through it. But how we got through it was with incredible family support. We made it."

It took several years, but Ms O'Dare forgave Butler.

"What's the point? Others just want to kill him but what does that solve? It'll just put us through more trauma and hell. I can't let that eat away at me. I had to forgive him, and I have."

Stephanie Baker was murdered by her ex-partner who has just been released on parole. Photo/supplied
Stephanie Baker was murdered by her ex-partner who has just been released on parole. Photo/supplied

Butler suffers from mental illness, anxiety and drug disorders. The last years of his life sentence were served in an institution.

"He's going to live with this for the rest of his life but in saying that ... "

Ms O'Dare said she had never received any apology from Butler and was surprised to learn he had expressed remorse.

In a 2016 Parole Board decision, Butler's letter read: "I am totally remorseful and truly sorry for taking the life of my ex-partner.


"I am very sorry she never had the chance to live a full and happy life as someone's daughter, mother, wife, cousin or friend."

Ms O'Dare said Butler had not served a proper jail sentence.

"He's lived in a hospital sort of place and over the last year or two has already been out.
Yes, he's had curfew for the last two years, but I wouldn't call that a prison sentence as opposed to the people who serve time."

Although Ms O'Dare has forgiven Butler, she said it still hurt to think he was now a free man.

"To me, I think 'To hell with this'.

"We are still suffering, and he's done his time. He had it pretty sweet. That's all good for him, but now I'm dealing with the memories. It's never ended for me."

Ms O'Dare said she still wished her daughter never visited what was an already unstable Butler that day.

"Sometimes I get so angry with her for just doing that. I think 'Why didn't you think about the consequences. Why did you walk into that trap?'."

Baker had already separated from Butler but visited him at his parents' Tauranga home as part of a court-ordered shared custody arrangement.

A victim who witnessed the crime told the board she was concerned Butler had not shown any remorse and was worried he could pose a danger if released.

The witness asked that Butler be banned from returning to the Bay of Plenty and electronically monitored.

The board decided this was unnecessary because of Butler's strict parole and accommodation conditions.

Parole board convener Justice Marion Frater said Butler had been spending most of his time in the community since November 2016, returning to a hospital once a week.

In the 2016 parole decision, Justice Frater said Butler had been housed in an open rehabilitation ward since September 2013 and had progressed to spending up to three nights in the community at a supervised mental health facility.

Butler had accepted the diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia and was compliant with all medication, the judge said.

The March 2017 decision said Butler also had an anxiety disorder, and alcohol and cannabis disorders in remission.

Justice Frater said Butler had made progress and changes in the past 20 years and had "impressive support" in the community.

The board was satisfied that because of this Butler's moderate risk of violent offending could be managed.

Conditions imposed upon Mr Butler include:

• That he live at a withheld address and not move from there without approval of a probation officer.
• A curfew from 10pm to 6am.
• Get permission from a probation officer before gaining or making changes to his employment situation.
• Tell a probation officer about any intimate relationship he may enter into.
• Not to enter the Bay of Plenty without permission from a probation officer.
• To never consume alcohol or illegal drugs for the rest of his lifetime.
• To never have contact with any of his victims without approval of a probation officer.