The world's a puzzle; no need to make sense out of it. - Socrates
Chain of Custody
After the voir dire we had moved to Room 230 for the rest of the trial.
It was a beautiful room – exactly what I would have imagined a courtroom to look like.
The Winnipeg Free Press reporter Mike McIntyre tweeted, “Courtroom can hold about 70 spectators. Pretty packed today, but that likely won’t be the case every day.”
I remember the lump in my throat as I had first entered this room, tears of relief that Candace’s trial was being held here in such a lovely room, one of the largest in the old Law Courts Building – a far cry from the rather plain, modern courtrooms that we had been in before. There was honor here in this room. Candace’s death was finally being honored.
The room was done in beautiful oak, the jury box to the left, the prisoner’s box right in the middle of the room and a substantial judge’s desk in the front.
The Judge seemed so comfortable behind his desk as he started to review the first days of the trial, those first witnesses – and the exhibits. The Judge continued his charge.
“…. exhibits have been presented during this trial. They are part of the evidence. You may rely upon them, like any other evidence, as much or as little as you think when you decide the case. As I said at the beginning of the trial, the exhibits go with you to the jury room. You may, but do not have to, examine all of them. They will be available to you if you so wish. The exhibits are only part of the evidence. Consider them along with the rest of the evidence and in exactly the same way.”
Even though all the exhibits were in the room, they could have been miles away. We were never allowed to view any of them. As emotional as it would have been, I would have appreciated having the same access as the jurors to view the photographs being discussed – to seeing the charts.
With present technology, it would have been such a simple thing to see the charts. I wouldn’t want to have had the photographs publicized – that would have been cruel and dishonoring to Candace…but for those present in the courtroom, it would have been a courtesy of inclusion if nothing else.
The Judge continued. “Some of those now retired officers first on the scene testified what they did or did not do to and around some of the items that were eventually seized and now marked as exhibits or depicted in booklets of photos which are marked as exhibits. Some of these exhibits were later sent at various points in this investigation to forensic laboratories, or to other specialists even prior to their arrival at Molecular World. In respect of what can be called this chain of custody of exhibits….”
There it was – the chain of custody of exhibits that had not been broken – even after all these years.
The Judge plunged then into the agenda for the day…. that long chain of evidence.
That first day had started like all the others.
We would sit outside in the halls waiting for the clerk to open the door, and then file in to take our seats. Next the lawyers came in rolling their briefcases, more like small suitcases, and then we would hear the shuffle of the accused with his shackles and the footsteps of his two guards walking slowly down the long hall. The accused would then take his place in the prisoner’s box, which wasn’t only called that, it really was a huge wooden box that hid him from our view, and forced him to sit directly facing the Judge. Once he was seated we could hear guards remove the handcuffs, but not the ankle shackles.
“We have a point of order,” the Judge informed us, as we took our seats on that first day. My heart sank.
One of the jury members had taken ill, and an alternate juror needed to be sworn in before we started.
The new jury member was ushered in. The man sworn in looked like a semi-retired professional, dressed down in faded blue jeans, casual but astute – a confident air about him. From all appearances he would be a good addition– a natural leader.
As it turned out, this new member addition to the jury became the “jury foreman.”
The foreman is selected by the jury themselves, usually because of his or her apparent good character, sense of responsibility and perhaps professional experience.
The foreman then becomes the voice of the jury, the person who leads the jury through the discussions during the deliberations, and ensures that all issues in the case are fully discussed in order to reach an appropriate verdict.
I wondered about the change. Was there a significance? Later, I met someone who knew the original jury member who became ill. She said it was a mysterious illness, severe enough for her to decline yet not serious enough to keep her ill for long. She had wondered if this mysterious illness was significant in allowing someone more appropriate to be on the jury.
According to a the Winnipeg Free Press report by Mike McIntyre, dated January 2011, entitled Dozens shun jury duty: Judge grows impatient with excuses, the selection process had been difficult. “People aren't exactly knocking down doors to fulfill their civic duty by sitting on a jury. The nearly four-hour ordeal saw many prospective jurors say why they wouldn't be able to hear the case.”
Fifty-six people had to be screened in order to choose a panel of 12 jurors and two alternates. Many of the 42 who were rejected had a litany of excuses which tested the patience of Court of Queen's Bench Justice Glenn Joyal.
“You're basically sabotaging your participation for reasons that aren't entirely sympathetic. That's not acceptable. Frankly, I feel that's a bit of an affront,” Joyal told one young man who claimed he might have a tough time maintaining “emotional neutrality” based on the expected length of the trial.
Because of the publicity surrounding the case, lawyers were granted special permission to put potential jurors through a screening process in an attempt to determine their prior knowledge of the case. Four different questions were asked of the prospective jurors, who were randomly selected from a larger pool and questioned one at a time in court.
Many people expressed knowledge about the case, although that didn't result in an automatic rejection. The key issue was whether they could still hear the facts and render a verdict based solely on the evidence and not on pre-existing knowledge or beliefs. To assist in the process, two other civilians were sworn in as makeshift judges to determine whether the prospective jurors were biased, based on their answers to the four questions.
Of the 56 potential jurors, eight were deemed to be biased by their peers and sent home. Crown and Defence lawyers were also given 20 challenges each, in which they could reject potential jurors without giving an explanation. Grant's lawyers used 12 such challenges, while the Crown used two.
Joyal dismissed the other 20 prospective jurors for a variety of reasons, including upcoming trips and conflicts with work.
I had always wondered if the jury selection might be difficult because of the intense publicity surrounding the case. I wondered if I might have contributed by my writing and my advocacy work. I had been cautioned many times that the publicity might come back to bite us; so when I heard that the jury had been selected, I was very relieved.
That first day was very formal. The Judge opened the trial proceedings with an official pronouncement of the charge. “Mark Edward Grant is being charged with first-degree murder,” he said solemnly.
The jury, all sitting alert, looked as if they too felt they were in school, having their duties and task at hand outlined.
The reporters had taken their places. There was a sketch artist at the left of the courtroom using very fast strokes. It looked as if he was sketching the jury members, using Kleenexes to smear and an eraser to smudge his charcoal lines. He also used different colored pencils to shade his illustration.
Mike tweeted, “Among the spectators in court today are a large class of students, similar in age to Candace.”
It was now official. Everything said and done in the courtroom could be publicized.
The Judge began the trial with instructions and general information for the jury.
Then Mike Himmelman, the assistant prosecutor, outlined the case in a narrative style, telling the official story of Candace’s abduction and subsequent murder.
He ended with a solemn charge of his own. “It is our duty to ensure the right person is charged for the right offense.”
My eyes drifted to the throne-like wooden chair, majestic and old, placed at the very back, behind the judge’s desk and chair – empty, as if ceremonially symbolizing the presence of the Queen herself and embodying all of her authority. I could visualize Queen Elizabeth there, tiara on her silver hair, dressed in royal blue, regal, demanding pomp and ceremony and presiding over it.
We had named Candace after Queen Candace of Ethiopia. Now to hear Candace’s name and hear her death described in this regal presence was a kind of poetic justice that moved me. I could feel Candace in the room. I knew exactly where she was sitting… in the chair smiling. She would preside. The room featured an interior cupola over the judge’s chair.
At the back of the room, separated by a brass rail, was our visitors’ gallery with olive green leather theater chairs. The walls were marble. The ceiling was ornately covered in gold leaf stencils and carved moldings.
And there was Candace in her chair, queen of the moment, redeemed … honored.
The first witness to be called to the stand was a distinguished gentleman, Ronald Murray Allan. If he was nervous, he certainly didn’t show it as he took his place and swore on the Bible “to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”
The Crown quickly established his credentials as a witness. He told us how, in early 1985, the entire police service had been completely reorganized. Prior to that, they had been organized according to the crimes, such as homicide and robbery; now they were divided into specialized units, one of which was the identification section placed under the supervision of Sergeant Wayne Bellingham, the lead exhibit officer.
This new ID unit was responsible for the photographs and the fingerprinting of any crime evidence and exhibits; so they were called to the scene immediately.
Newly trained in identification at the Canadian Police College, Allan had been assigned to the unit as a constable, and remained there for the next seven years, assisting Bellingham at the scene. He had retired from the force in 2007.
“Do you have independent recollection, sir, of this event?” Himmelman asked Allan.
The first time we had heard that phrase was at the preliminary hearing. I could feel the ripple of interest among our friends sitting with us. At coffee later as we debriefed, I remember the interest in this new turn of phrase. “Independent recollection” became the buzz word at every coffee break and lunch break thereafter.
But what did it mean? Why was it important? Apparently, a witness is not permitted to rely completely upon written notes, nor may they read directly from reports while giving testimony. The witness must be capable of testifying from their own memory of the event, termed as independent recollection.
This was particularly important in this trial because the 26 intervening years had taken their toll. Sergeant Wayne Bellingham, the lead exhibit officer, the person who should really have taken the stand, had died of cancer in December 1999.
I had independent recollection of Sergeant Bellingham. I remember his smile, his caution – his little insights.
He was the one who had initiated a visit in the mid-90s to review the case with us. At that time, sitting in our living room, I remember him distinctly apologizing to Cliff for the interrogation, the continuing suspicion over the years. “I know you are innocent, sir,” he had said politely. “But we got a lot of pressure at the station to investigate you and your family.” He looked down. “We still do.”
Cliff shrugged. The remark was healing and painful at the same time.
I had independent recollection of January 17, 1985. We had gone to the police station.
There was an unmistakable excitement in the air. I felt it when we met the police at the Public Safety Building. Their eyes were excited beyond belief, which is why I couldn’t believe it when they told us that they had found Candace’s body. The intense excitement in their eyes didn’t match the horror of their words.
It was only with time that I could put it all in context – the police context.
After we had phoned in Candace’s disappearance that day so long ago and the police didn’t believe that Candace was abducted but that she was a runaway, we had sustained a rather rocky relationship with the police. We had different expectations of them because there were three things we didn’t know about the police work back then.
We didn’t know that there were up to 70 reported runaway teens on Winnipeg streets at any given time.
We didn’t know that there were many parents who used the police to fetch their runaway children by telling lies.
In hindsight, we were so naïve.
On the other hand, I think the police misread us as well.
But what the police didn’t know was that, even though we were on the edge of the poorest part of town, we were very well connected. Actually, we didn’t know that either at the time. But we had tremendous social capital. We were Mennonites in a Mennonite town during the Mennonite glory years.
The Mennonites who had arrived here in Canada as refugees from Russia and Europe, starving and poor, had worked feverishly and grown into a wealthy, powerful force in Winnipeg. We were connected on several major fronts. We, as a young family, attended one of the leading Mennonite churches at the time, River East Mennonite Brethren. Candace attended Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute, a privately-owned Mennonite high school. Cliff worked for the largest, nationally-known camp in Manitoba for children and adults that had strong Mennonite roots and affiliations. I had networked with the communication departments of the national conferences for two of the major denominations, Mennonite Brethren and the General Conference of Mennonites, as it was then called.
Even though we were new to Winnipeg – we had moved to the city in 1980 – both Cliff and I came from well-established Mennonite communities. I had attended Mennonite Educational Institute in Clearbrook, B.C. Both of us had attended Bethany Bible Institute in Saskatchewan and Cliff had completed his theological education at the Mennonite Brethren Bible College in Winnipeg seven years prior.
Back then (and things have changed very quickly since then) we still had a familial feeling in the Mennonite community with recognizable names, traceable family networks, common German language and culture. We felt we were part of one huge extended family – a national, powerful network.
The police also didn’t know that we had an amazing champion in our lives who was perfectly placed to fight for us.
The morning after Candace disappeared, Cliff called his employer, Dave Loewen, the director of Camp Arnes. Dave was a natural leader, serving terms as president of Manitoba Camping Association, president of Christian Camping International Canada, Secretary of Christian Camping International, and later, when he should have retired, he founded Kingdom Ventures in Russia where he served as director for more than 20 years.
Dave was articulate, a visionary, dedicated to his faith and a man of action. He didn’t wait and ponder, he moved quickly and decisively in everything he did. He was fearless, unafraid of the media or any of the authority figures in our city. He was in some ways the perfect champion of any cause.
He was also perfectly placed. Dave knew Candace; she was one of those camp brats who had grown up at Camp Arnes. He saw her daily for three months of the year. He also knew Heidi’s family, one of her best friends from camp, because they were caretakers at the camp during all of this. He even knew the Wiebes, the parents of the boy who had seen Candace last and had given her a face wash with snow.
Dave specialized in the culture of young people and prided himself in being able to assess them quickly and place them where they needed to be. He was interested in the young, saw their potential and loved them deeply and had developed almost a genius when it came to working with youth. He had developed a keen awareness of their culture, their interests and their emphasis on friends. He would have known Heidi and Candace were inseparable during those months at camp. We didn’t have to convince him that Candace wasn’t a runaway. He knew it.
There was one more thing. Dave exuded an incredible integrity that drew people to him, and he had also developed the art of persuasion. He could get anyone to do anything.
Because we didn’t have to convince him that Candace wasn’t a runaway, he instinctively knew the reason behind our desperation and acted on it. By noon of the first day we called him, Dave had already organized a simple ground search around our house – just to check the neighborhood out for us. I remember how this band of foot searchers came to our house that day to warm up. I thought they were all angels.
That Sunday, Dave had already communicated with church and conference leaders right across the country to help pray for us and find Candace. This was before the Internet. He had his wife, Elfrieda, organize a phone-a-thon. He also persuaded the editor of the Mennonite Brethren Herald, Harold Jantz, to convince the Winnipeg Sun to print something in their Sunday edition to begin a media awareness.
By Monday morning, he had appointed leaders to a “Candace Derksen Search Committee,” who met that afternoon at the school Candace attended.
Monday it was in the major paper of the city, and the police still hadn’t moved on it. They were now forced to act. The police brought out the dogs Monday afternoon – three days after the fact.
And that’s the way it went. Dave, through the Candace Derksen Search Committee, managed to keep the story in the public for nearly seven weeks, creating different initiatives, press conferences, poster blitzes causing such a stir the police had a hard time keeping up, but they tried.
Every time the Mennonite community did something, the police would do something.
For us, all of the attention was so appreciated. It was the only comfort during that very dark time. People were looking for Candace. People cared.
The widespread concern in the Mennonite community caught the attention of everyone in Winnipeg, who had no problem joining in the search – all in their own way. To this day, many people can remember exactly where they were the day Candace’s body was found.
By the time Candace’s body was found, we knew that the police felt badly that they had misjudged us and were motivated to do better. We felt their energy. We saw it as excitement. And yes, some of them cried with us as well.
During the trial, Dave Loewen talked to a reporter. He had independent recollection as well.
“The co-operation from all sectors of society was outstanding,” said Loewen. “There was a lot of compassion and support for this. It was such a bizarre disappearance. There was a lot of support, but no clues... we went door-to-door in that whole area and inquired everywhere. I'll tell you why, and we talked about that right away, the hardest thing is not to know. When her body was found, then we knew what had happened, and where she was, and that was very consoling. We couldn't imagine having to live without knowing if she was dead or alive... of course, the preference would have been to find her alive and in good shape. But, the worst would have been not to know.”
Loewen revealed how he’d spoken with police in February and had a feeling they might be closing in on a suspect. “It never left us... the police were so sincere about trying to resolve it,” he said.
Dave Teigrob, vice-principal at Candace's school in 1985, told reporters how all those who knew Candace were profoundly affected by her death. He continued working at MBCI until 1994 and was now living in Saskatchewan. “It had a huge impact on the school and on the students. People didn't have a sense anything like that could happen,” said Teigrob. “That (Grade 7) class was profoundly affected. Right through the entire lifetime of their movement through the school, it was always like there was a concern, there was an empty chair where Candace should've been, even through to graduation.”
This was the setting that Allan could not describe, that I felt lay behind his words, and his actions.
Brian Bell, the Crown prosecutor, continued to question Allan. “Now, respecting the investigation into the killing of Candace Derksen, would you tell the jury, please, when you became involved in this particular investigation?”
Allan nodded. “On January 17th, I received a page. In those days we carried the old pager system to phone the office to receive information first thing in the morning, to show up at Number 1 Cole Avenue. I attended shortly after 10:00, approximately, 10:05 to be exact. It was a Thursday.” Allan began his testimony.
He said it…. “10:05 to be exact” – getting at the details.
“How big was the shed, Mr. Allan?”
“It measured eight feet by ten feet.”
“And the condition of the body when you first saw it on that day?”
“She was frozen stiff.”
Questions – endless questions.
It was the method of investigation… getting at the details. Sometimes I wished that Bell could just say, “Now, Mr. Allan, tell us what happened to you on January 17, 1985. Tell us everything about that day from beginning to end.”
But that isn’t the way it is done. They inched their way through the testimony, baby-stepping it all the way.
So for us, the crime scene became one gigantic puzzle, as they placed each piece of information on the table, and then they examined it intensely: examined the time, the motivation, every movement, and every angle until each piece was finally placed with a resounding click into its rightful place.
“And did you check the clothing on the body in any way on this particular day?” Bell continued.
“No, I did not. My assignment was to do the photography and seize exhibits and take measurements to collect evidence and take pictures. I was trained but the task was nothing like today. We didn’t video, we just snapped pictures.”
It was just another example of the passage of time. Things were different back then.
Securing the scene after a crime has taken place is critical.
As far as I understand, there are three basic principles involved in the initiation of an effective homicide investigation that need to be followed. Bell was trying to prove this had been done: immediate response to the homicide crime scene by patrol officers to show that the evidentiary materials were protected, not disturbed, nor destroyed, altered, or lost; a well-documented track of how the evidence was collected, sealed, labelled, and stored; and eyewitnesses with independent recollection of the scene.
They also needed to show that the appropriate notification had been made to the qualified homicide investigators and that the scene remained secured throughout the entire process. In this case the scene had been guarded for one week after Candace’s body was found.
The temperatures reached -29C without the wind chill that day. In those days we didn’t pay much attention to wind chill.
It was January 17, 1985.
Apparently first thing that morning, Victor Frankowski, who worked for Alsip Brick Tile and Lumber Company Limited located in the heart of the city, had checked out an abandoned shed out on the yard looking for a piece of equipment. (We actually never heard from Victor Frankowski, who was the person who found Candace’s body. He had suffered a stroke in the intervening years and died. Before his death he had given a statement years ago, and this is what they used to reconstruct the events of that day.)
Alsips was a masonry supply company which employed up to 15 or16 people at the time on a large, sprawling property which included the main office, a manufacturing plant and several outlying buildings used mainly for storage.
According to his statement, the shed had originally been housed at a sandpit in Beausejour. It had been abandoned, along with other things: left-over siding, a piece of plywood leaned up against it, and even an old wagon filled with stuff, still packed, from the days when they used to deliver by horse and wagon.
When Frankowski reached the shed, he had to first move a conveyor leaning against the door. The door had broken off its hinges. When he peered inside, “I looked down and saw a body on the floor of the shed. I thought it was a doll. I looked again and saw that the body was too big for a doll. I didn't touch the body.” He immediately closed the door, propped it with the conveyor again, and went to tell his employer, the owner, Frank Wayne Alsip.
Frank Alsip, who had been buried in paperwork, sorting through various orders and invoices that were gathered on his desk looked up when Victor Frankowski walked in. He looked like he’d just seen a ghost.
“I, uh, think there’s a body.”
Alsip followed Frankowski, who was walking quickly.
When they reached the shed, Frankowski stood in front of the shed, explaining how he’d stuck his head through the door opening of the shed on the off-chance he might locate a saw he’d been searching for when he noticed the body.
Alsip was stunned as he looked inside. Frankowski was right.
A body appeared to be lying on the floor. The head was furthest from the door. He couldn’t see much else, as the figure appeared to be covered with an old parka that had previously been inside the shed.
It was too dark to tell age or gender.
Alsip and Frankowski returned to the office and immediately called 911.
The first police on the scene were Gilbert Vance Clarke and Dereck Blackman Shaw. Clarke said that he saw a set of two footprints going to the door.
The two, after seeing the body, immediately called the major crimes investigator, Acting Patrol Sergeant, William Keith Cahoon, who on arrival officially secured the scene. From then on, the crime scene was never left unattended for an entire week until everything was moved into police storage.
Cahoon called Sergeant Bruce and Sergeant Dave Shipman, the two murder investigators at the time. Finally, they summoned ID Unit Sergeant Wayne Bellingham who was responsible for the collection and handling of the exhibits, cataloguing them and submitting them for the appropriate laboratory examinations.
The statements from the officers were all the same. The shed was about eight feet by ten. The entrance of the shed was on the north side, to the left of the entrance there was a female body lying on her right side, with her feet pointed east and her head west; she was facing south. Inside the building was a log, a Swede saw, a pulley system, and a piece of bar on a hoist. Under the log was a discarded metal frame and under that was a red nylon gym bag with the Adidas logo on it.
There was very little light. There were just enough cracks to allow the snow to get in but not enough light. They used their flashlights to see inside the shed.
Almost immediately they realized that it was Candace from the pictures on the posters that had been distributed throughout the community.
She was still recognizable though frozen. She was fully clothed, wearing a high school-type jacket with a blue body and burgundy coloured sleeves with wool cuffs. The jacket was partially opened. She was wearing one runner, the other runner had come off, exposing a white sock with a tear in it.
She was hogtied. The binding, often referred to during the trial as a bindery twine, that tied her wrists to her ankles behind her back, so tightly she was bent over backward. There was some twine hanging from the rafters in the shed.
In the school duffle bag, they found school books and makeup. In the left pocket of the coat, they found a white metal finger ring with a blue heart-shaped stone. There was a rubber band, a piece of Dentine wrapper, a foil wrapper, Wrigley’s Extra chewing gum seized from Candace’s pocket. There were four of the seven sticks remaining in the package. There was a piece of gum on the ground. Eight days later there were two more pieces of gum found in a gasoline can along the north wall under heavy equipment that hadn’t been moved for some time.
And fecal material, excrement from rodents.
Everything was meticulously labelled, initialed and dated.
The logs, together with other evidence – 77 exhibits in total – such as an Old Dutch potato chip bag that was dated November 1984 found lying beside Candace, a metal clip, frozen gum and dust from that platform were sent to the RCMP Lab, Hair and Fibre Section, on St. James Street.
We were to hear detailed reports on the hair that was collected, but at this time I took note of the fibers. There were textile fibers taken from her lips and a swab of fiber from Candace’s teeth. To us this suggested that she had been gagged.
Again all exhibits were individually packaged, labelled and sealed. In the end, after everything had been videoed, the complete shed was moved to the District Four Station.
Under the supervision of the police at all times, the body was taken by attendants from Winnipeg’s First Call, a mortuary service, to the Seven Oaks Hospital.
To continue with the chain of custody of the evidence, the next witness on the stand was Robert Wesley Parker, retired Winnipeg Police Service inspector. He attended the autopsy performed by Dr. Markesteyn along with his two medical investigators, Lanice Guay and Rosemary Mattocks. Parker was there to take photographs of the autopsy performed on January 20, after the body was thawed, three days later.
According to Parker, it was important to show a trail of photographs.
After the autopsy, all of the new biological exhibits, now considered evidence, were seized and placed in a fridge in the crime division office.
The material exhibits were placed in a secure locker after the autopsy at the Public Safety Building, in the examination room referred to as the silver nitrate room. This included fingerprints.
Except there had been some frustration with the fingerprints. The attempt to dust for fingerprints was less than successful “because you don’t perspire and leave traces in sub-zero weather” and so much of the equipment and evidence had been exposed to the elements.
The officers went back numerous times to take different samples as well as pictures from the Nairn overpass. They also gathered sand from the floor of the shed, dust from the hoist, and dusted it all again for more fingerprints.
They also investigated the company, securing the records of every employee.
Trying to understand the scene, they had hogtied Bellingham up in the same position to see how much mobility Candace would have had. Could she have wriggled free? Bellingham could only roll around on his front, back and sides but couldn’t stand up.
On the stand, Parker demonstrated a human being tied like that, sharply arching his back as a demonstration. It looked so painful… uncomfortable.…
And then the questioning ended – in some ways with a sigh of relief. The chain of custody of the evidence had been retained. We were all shocked at how many of the officers had kept their notebooks even though they were retired. Some of them had kept them even though they had moved out of the province.
It was amazing that the chain of custody had been presented intact after all these years – with statements, the evidence itself, the officers’ black notebooks and their independent recollection. What was also amazing was the fact that, where the primary investigator was either incapacitated or deceased, there was someone who could fill that place with credibility, authority and believability. We often commented how time- sensitive this trial was. Given the age of the investigators, we realized that this trial might not have been possible in a few years.
This was the second time we were listening to it all, but it was still hard. I turned around to see how my daughter was doing. Her cream yarn had become red – pain.
But I remember thinking that, compared to the preliminary, the Defence seemed less intense. I think it was because the police really had done their work well. And it was truly a miracle that, after all this time, there weren’t any glaring holes – no real discrepancies in any of the other stories of the witnesses. The placing of the body, the runners, the twine, were all consistent in the testimony.
The only inconsistency that kept coming up was a reference by one of the witnesses to a parka that had been seen at the scene on first entry but was never seen by anyone again. A discarded company parka that didn’t seem to belong to anyone had been seen covering Candace. I had even heard about this parka 27 years ago when it was reported to us… and it remained a kind of mysterious “parka”.
“What is with the parka?” we would often ask. But nothing came of it. Had it been used to try to conceal the body? Candace’s duffle bag had been hidden under things. Had someone removed it as unnecessary to the case, and not wanted it to be confiscated as evidence? Or was it just a misplaced memory? In any case, even though it was referred to, it became a non-issue.
During cross-examination Simmonds concentrated more on pointing out that the shed was deserted, unfenced and could have been used by many people. Perhaps other children had played in it? He insinuated; what if someone had played in it after Candace had disappeared?
He also pointed out that the police back then had been more interested in collecting evidence like hair, fingerprints, and things like that, not realizing the importance of DNA.
They hadn’t worn overalls or booties or hairnets or masks. “In fairness to you, in 1984, you hadn’t learned about those protective measures.”
He suggested that the bindings on the body had not been covered; the twine had been exposed. “You can’t tell me how many times you moved around in the shed or went outside and came back in….” he said. “In fairness, it would be impossible to say....”
He was insinuating contamination, a theme throughout the proceedings. We learned that DNA cannot be distorted or contaminated.
It seems DNA is much like a snowflake.
One can destroy a snowflake, melt it into water, pile one on top of another into a snow drift till they harden and lose their form, but one cannot manipulate the intricate design of a snowflake into another shape. In the same way, the design of a DNA cannot be compromised or altered.
DNA contamination means that one can mix up the labels of DNA in a lab or include more DNA when handling the evidence but never, we were told, is it possible to duplicate or compromise the intricate design of each DNA.
Eventually the description of the details became excruciatingly painful for me as I was brought once again, in my unguarded moments, to the brink of Candace’s murder.
I had thought details would be easy to deal with but, instead, those details were like memory bullets. Some whizzed by and just scared us, others tore us apart and left us in pieces.
The reference to rodent excrement really bothered me – the idea that she had become a home and food for mice.
There was the reference to twine hanging from the ceiling…. I had never heard that before. I didn’t like what that told me. I had seen images on the internet….
The Judge constantly referring to Candace hogtied was important to me…validating the horror of it all. He was talking the language of my heart….
There had been reference to the fact that she was dusty…. I’m not sure why that bothered me. I guess it’s because it spoke to passage of time – she had been lying there unattended while we had been desperately looking for her. Someone had known she was there all the time… and had left her to the elements.
She had been left alone.
As we were moving along the row, I saw Naomi and Harold Jantz – the first people in the Search Committee. I had independent recollection of them. Even my body remembered them. The memories took me right back to that day, January 17, 1985.
The grief spasms started anew. Tidal waves of emotion. The shed, the courtroom all collided and I went down. Without thinking, I turned to the nearest wall – bracing myself and wanting to hide while trying to gain control of my emotions before facing my friends and media in the hallway outside the courtroom door.
“Come,” someone took my arm. “Grant can hear you.”
I had brac
ed myself against the back of the prisoner’s box. I thought I had chosen a safe place to be vulnerable. I had thought that this beautiful formal room would be safe.
I composed myself. I did not want to be banned from this beautiful but painful room because of being too emotional.
I went out into the hall to feel it all.
Feel! Feel! Feel!
I had talked to too many wounded people who no longer had the capacity to feel. I was lucky I could still feel.
Here is another blog – just random thoughts.
Who is on Trial? January 2011
Candace’s life is being revealed during this trial. The trial is doing exactly what I had hoped; it is revealing it all.
But it is not only Candace who is being revealed. We get a sense of each person who is taking the stand. At lunch, as we discuss the case, we get a new sense of who each other is.
It is as if we are being sketched anew. At the beginning of the day, the page in Cliff’s sketch book is a white blank. At the end of the day, someone has appeared on the page, sketched by the artist's hand, defined, caught, exposed and revealed.
At the outset, we thought it was about exposing the accused, but so far he still remains a mystery while the character of everyone else who is participating in the process is being revealed, taking shape, being defined and sketched by the master’s hand.
Character isn't something we are born with and can't change – unlike our fingerprints. It's something we weren't born with and must take responsibility for forming.
Whether the questions are presented by the Crown or the Defence, Judge, media or friend, we are all being exposed in this process.
We have no control over any of it. We just watch, wondering what will be revealed. It tests our patience enormously. I just want to hurry through it, to the end – not realizing that even our impatience reveals something of who we are....
You do not wake up one morning a bad person. It happens by a thousand tiny surrenders …. Robert Brault
By the way to protect the vulnerable in this story - private citizens - I am changing their names.
Many well-meaning folks got caught up in the story - and experienced a great deal of trauma. I regret that and don't want to add to the stress of this all.
Thank you for reading this first draft. I do apologize for the formatting.
Please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org for any comments - corrections, insights or alerts.
This chapter actually appeared first in "This Mortal Coil."
I am also realizing as I am reworking it – how differently it reads now that we know the ending to the story.
Some are asking me why I am I doing this. I've had various requests for this book. I am tired of publishing. I don't want to push this story on anyone.... and I guess I wonder if there is some hidden lesson to be learned....