TORONTO - Exactly four years after being hounded out of town and back to prison, Martin Ferrier makes his first visit this week to the area in which he was so loathed and feared as a violent psychopathic sexual menace.
Returning to Peel region, just west of Toronto, on Tuesday is something Ferrier has wanted to do since his abortive attempt in July 2004.
That's when he emerged briefly from prison amid a blast of publicity stoked by local police and his own mother, who had branded him "a monster."
"I've got mixed feelings. I have apprehension about returning," Ferrier told The Canadian Press as he drove down from Montreal over the weekend.
"If nobody recognized me, it would be fantastic. But at the same time, it would also be fantastic if somebody come up to me and says, 'This is your first time back here in this many years; it's a shame you haven't been able to return sooner.' "
For Ferrier, 35, the journey from his home in Montreal to the place he was born and later spent several turbulent years is part pilgrimage, part rebuttal to those who wrote him off as an incorrigible psychopath.
"Here I am two years to the day I've been out, and I haven't got so much as a speeding ticket," he said. "Whatever happened to me being a serious risk to re-offend violently?"
After all, he was called a sexual deviant with aspirations to become Canada's worst serial killer. His own mother said so. A prison psychologist said so. Stephen Harper, then Opposition leader, called him a "notorious rapist." Police in Peel warned he was highly dangerous.
True, he did have 64 convictions, though no one mentioned almost all were for petty fraud as a teenager, or that he had no history of random violence. Nor had he raped anyone.
Many of the charges stemmed from run-ins with Peel police. Ferrier suspected a vendetta because he had embarrassed his estranged father Don Ferrier, a former long-time member of the force.
"Peel region police were huge in creating this hysteria," he said.
Either way, the lurid allegations made him front-page news four years ago when he was released from prison where he had spent all but two of his adult years.
News footage showed one person in Brampton advocating he be executed; another that he be locked up forever.
Hounded by TV cameras, the hulking Ferrier threatened a reporter and was arrested. He then stunned the courtroom by begging to be sent back to the "refuge" of Warkworth Institution - a federal penitentiary - for two more years.
John Kastner, whose acclaimed docudrama on Ferrier "Monster in the Family" actually saw its ratings rise in reruns, said the transformation over the past two years has been stunning.
"He's a happy man," Kastner said. "He doesn't want to go back to prison any more."
More remarkable, perhaps, has been the "tectonic shift" in public attitudes toward Ferrier. Strangers who recognize him from the CTV telecast regularly stop him. They shake his hand, wish him well.
He has received more than 1,000 supportive emails - many from women.
"I'm not looking for confrontation but why should I have to avoid west-end Toronto?," he said.
After his release in July 2006, Ferrier moved to Montreal. Institutionalized almost constantly since age 13, when his mother dumped him in a psychiatric hospital even though he had no mental illness, he struggled with freedom.
He even plotted getting arrested in hopes of returning yet again to his Warkworth "home."
Now, home is Montreal. He has an apartment and car, and earns a decent living working in security.
In his early 20s, Ferrier was convicted of arson endangering life for setting fire to his ex-girlfriend's empty apartment after a messy breakup. He was also convicted of forcing her to commit a sex act - something he denies doing.
At one point, he spent 20 harrowing months in strict isolation without charge simply for refusing to agree to 17 onerous restrictions Peel police were demanding.
Even after he left Warkworth for Montreal, Peel police tried to get authorities in Quebec to restrict his freedom.
The force has always refused to explain its actions beyond saying it considered him dangerous. Ferrier calls their attitude "disappointing."
"I wish they would have come and said, 'We're happy for this man. He's doing good.' "
The journey to his birth place is also an opportunity to thank some of the people who saw beyond the hysterical headlines. He also planned to pop in to Warkworth - for the first time without handcuffs - to say hello.
Mostly, Ferrier wants everyone to know he's delighted to be an "everyday Joe."
"It sounds pretty vanilla," he said almost apologetically. "But I go to work. I live at home with a cat."