Kelly Ellard, the woman serving a life sentence for the 1997 murder of Reena Virk, has been granted day parole for six months.

The convicted killer must first complete a residential substance abuse treatment program, a two-member panel decided Thursday.

The 35-year-old has a history of substance abuse issues. The latest known incident came in June 2015.

Virk was 14 years old when she was brutally beaten by a group of teens near the Craigflower Bridge over the Gorge waterway in Saanich, B.C.

During trial, a court heard that Ellard and a teenage boy then followed Virk across the bridge, smashed her head into a tree and held her under water until she drowned.

Ellard was 15 at the time of the death. She was convicted of second degree-murder in 2005 after three trials, and has served a total of about 15 years in prison.

Warren Glowatski received the same conviction. He was granted full parole in 2010.

Despite the painful loss of his daughter, Virk's father said he agrees that Ellard should have a chance to make amends for her actions and prove that she's become a responsible adult.

"If she has a desire to have the full freedom, she has to prove it now. This is her testing ground," said Manjit Virk. "If she behaves, it's good for everyone—good for her and for society."

Ellard, however, has yet to admit the full extent of her involvement in Virk's death.

"It's very problematic in your case that there have been years and years of deception, of lying about the facts," panel member Colleen Zuk said Thursday. "Today we found that you continued to somewhat minimize."

But Ellard has become more transparent about her role in the crime during the past year, the parole board said.

"I just wanted to get rid of her in the moment and I know that's awful and I'm having trouble saying that," Ellard saying before the parole board, but added that she is "adamant" that she was not the one who held Virk's head under water.

Virk's parents, however, say they will struggle to find closure until the killer fully acknowledges her role in their daughter's untimely death and apologizes for what she did.

"Why not say 'Yes, I did it?'" Manjit said. "She’s convicted of that. To admit her full role in it should not be hard for her. It will make life easier for her and for other people to have closure."

Ellard replied “I am” when asked who was responsible for Virk’s death Thursday, but has never addressed the victim’s family directly.

"(An apology) would relieve her guilt and give us some comfort she’s owned up…and taken some responsibility for her action and wants to mend her ways and be a productive citizen now," Manjit said.

Ellard's parole period will start as soon as she begins the program. The exact date of her release or where she will live, however, remain unclear.

She will also have to undergo psychological counselling as part of her release and live in a halfway home after completing her treatments.

After six months, the parole board will review its decision.

Day parole means a released convict is required to live in an institution such as a halfway house at night, but is permitted to go out during the day as long as they abide by conditions set out by the parole board.

Ellard first applied for day parole in 2016, but was denied.

In February, she was granted temporary escorted absences to attend parenting programs and doctor's appointments when she became pregnant following conjugal visits with her boyfriend, who has also served prison time.

Legal experts say the child's birth and Ellard's behaviour during those outings likely helped the parole board come to Thursday's decision.

"The escorted absences would be important because they would look carefully at how somebody behaved while out of the institution on those escorted absences," said criminal defence lawyer Michael Mulligan.

The birth of her son, he added, is an "important and powerful incentive" for Ellard to abide by the conditions of her release.

"From a community point of view, one of our priorities is that the child in this case is taken care of and has a chance to succeed," he said.

Ellard's son is currently living with her at a women's prison in Abbotsford.

On Thursday, she said she intends to raise her son with his father, but is willing to leave her boyfriend if necessary.

"As much as I love him, if I had to let go ... for the sake of myself and my child, I would,” she told the parole board.

With files from CTV Vancouver's Michele Brunoro and The Canadian Press