Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Friday, March 06, 2015

"It Is So Bizarre"

"Candace loved people, even as a little child she would just give her toys away. When we moved into a new community, she would bring out all my pots and pans and bang them around. And when I asked her what she was doing, she would say to me, 'Just wait, Mom'. And then the other children would come flooding in from all over. This was Candace. She loved people, and she was four, and to me that was her defining moment because, even up until her death, people always told me how that was her -- that was our Candace."
"To have this ruling come down has just stunned us. This is such a shock. It is so bizarre. I am convinced that Grant is guilty. There is no other way to see it."
"It was a nightmare in the beginning. But eventually you do normalize. Candace has these legacies that were built with her spirit, and so in some ways she feels like an adult child to me."
"She is far away, but her presence is always with us -- this spirit of love. And that is comforting. After 30 years I can still remember Candace, and the tears still come. But that's a real gift. In all the grief and pain, there is a threat of losing that memory, but we still have her."
"I still see her alive."
Wilma Derkson, Winnipeg
The Supreme Court has called for a new trial in the 1984 homicide of Candace Derksen.
Candace Derksen. (HANDOUT)
"In this case, I conclude that the trial judge erred in evaluating and assessing the credibility of the unknown third-party suspect evidence on a balance of probabilities."
"There is no such evidentiary burden on the accused where he seeks to rely on the defence that an unknown third party committed the crime in question."
Justice Andromache Karakatsanis, Supreme Court of Canada

The justices of the Supreme Court of Canada issued a unanimous ruling on Thursday that shocked the parents of Candace Derkson, thirteen when she died thirty years ago. She would have celebrated her 43rd birthday on that very day. What the Supreme Court ruled was to uphold a 2011 Manitoba Court of Appeal decision which had ordered a new trial for Mark Grant, the man convicted of murdering the popular young girl whose bright personality and gifted presence uplifted all who knew her.

The man convicted of her murder and who had spent decades a free man before his name was linked with the child's murder and he was finally sent to prison after being found guilty remains in prison. For the time being, at any event, while Manitoba Justice decides what their next move is to be. As for the parents of Candace Derkson, Wilma and Cliff, they remain convinced that the man behind bars, convicted of their child's murder, is where he belongs. "I can't see it any other way", declared Mrs. Derksen.
Wilma Derksen (left, with husband Cliff Derksen) says she was
Wilma Derksen (left, with husband Cliff Derksen) says she was "completely surprised" by the Supreme Court's decision to call for a new trial for the man convicted in the 1984 murder of their teen daughter. (MELISSA TAIT / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
Their daughter was an athletic young girl who ran and swam exceedingly well, but for her own gratification. She never wanted to compete with other children for the simple enough reason that she took no pleasure in out-competing others. She just enjoyed what she was able to do, and saw no need to compare her talents and capabilities with those of anyone else. She was a hugely popular child, with her peers, with her teachers. Her appreciation of others was reciprocated in the way that others appreciated her.

In November 1984, on her way home from school at age thirteen, something happened to deter her from reaching home. The community was alerted and responded, leading to a huge search for her whereabouts. Volunteers came from across the city to help pursue the search for the little girl. Posters with her image were to be found everywhere. And for six weeks her parents were frantic about their daughter's whereabouts, while the entire city was consumed with the mystery of her disappearance.

And then she was discovered, but the mystery remained. In an industrial shed located 500 metres from her home, Candace Derkson was found, hands and feet bound behind her, frozen to death. There were no clues that police could make anything of. And a week after she was found, she was buried. The official search for her killer went nowhere until 2001 when the RCMP had DNA tests performed on the twine that had bound her in life, leaving her immobilized until death claimed her. Those tests revealed nothing useful at the time.

Another six years passed until another laboratory conducted another round of tests that led to a career criminal who was charged with her murder. And that criminal was the very man now in prison who was convicted of her second-degree murder in 2011. But the verdict was overturned by two subsequent courts. Based on evidence that the defence was unable to present during the trial hinting at another possible suspect. Linked to another young girl of twelve discovered alive nine months after Candace had been found dead.

The second girl was discovered in an empty boxcar in a railway yard, by a passerby. Her hands and feet too had been bound, tied in granny knots. On the scene there was a blue Wrigley's gum wrapper. And as it happened a similar gum wrapper was found with Candace's body, and her bindings were also tied in granny knots. The man convicted of Candace's murder happened to have been in prison at the time of the second event. The girl found alive later in adulthood denied that she had ever been found in a boxcar, bound.

Yet the woman who had discovered the 12-year-old had issued a statement to the police describing what she had found: "Her legs were tied at the ankles. Her wrists were tied in front of her in the same manner as her ankles. She was crying and sobbing and kept repeating mommie, mommie." The judge who had presided over Mark Grant's trial had refused to permit the defence to present an alternate killer theory to the jury.

And that decision brought both the Manitoba Court of Appeal and then the Supreme Court of Canada to a disavowal of Justice Glenn Joyal's decision. And the agony of grief and disbelief now enveloping Candace Derksen's mother and father have engulfed them in a renewed sense of loss, with the child of thirteen transformed in their minds to that child grown to adulthood and now 43 years of age, still seeking justice.

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