Remembering a God-fearing man’s senseless death

(Tim Knudsen, second from left, with family)

When disabled or vulnerable people — like Harvey Sanderson Jr. — wind up beaten and dead, my blood boils.

I’m likely not alone.

Sanderson’s beating seems so callous and pointless.

But, in some small way, it allows me a small opportunity to offer my apology to the family of a vulnerable man beaten to death in fall 2008 because he didn’t have a smoke to give a passing drunk.

As it is with Sanderson, I had the same dull pit of anger in by gut in the days following the killing of Tim Knudsen outside the Salvation Army — his home.

As I’ve come to learn, some of those who participated in the group beating that ultimately caused the 300 lb. “gentle giant” to suffer a massive brain injury and die remain at large. They know who they are and hopefully they live in shame and torment for their actions.

A week or so after Knudsen died, police arrested two men who ultimately pleaded guilty.

Cyril Raven — who initiated the attack, punched Knudsen, knocked him down and walked away, pleaded to assault cause bodily harm and got a sentence of 190 days time served and two years of probation, which is still ongoing.

Dean Isbister — who joined in and kicked the prone, defenceless Knudsen in the head at least twice — pleaded guilty to manslaughter and received a sentence of 638 days time served, plus two years less a day of jail to top it off and three years probation to follow.

They were sentenced June 17, 2010 in front of Judge Marvin Garfinkel.

Their punishments, from what I can tell through news archives, has never been reported.

But more importantly, what was never put on the record is the comments made by Knudsen’s sister, Ann Piekoff, in her statement to the court — and the two men held responsible for the crime.

Ann was kind enough to sit and talk with me back in my Free Press days. Judging from the date of the post of our time together, it was a few months after her beloved brother died.

To hear her talk about how there were no defensive wounds found on her brother’s hands during the autopsy.

I committed back then to seeing the prosecution through, but lost track of it along the line, having switched jobs and responsibilities.

For that, I apologize.

And while I could rail on about what some may call “weak” sentence meted out by the courts for the loss of a good man’s life (however challenged it was) there’s no point. Given conflicting statements given by witnesses at the scene, the Crown was probably lucky to get the convictions it did.

What is important, I feel today, is to remember Knudsen — through the words of his sister as told to Garfinkel.

Here they are, for the record.

Sadly, Tim’s life ended tragically, far too soon, almost two years ago. To understand what we have lost, your Honour, you have to know a little bit about who Tim was and what he meant to me and to his family and friends.

Tim didn’t choose his life, but he lived it the best he could. He had his challenges mentally and physically but he never burdened others with his issues. He was fiercely independent and chose to live on his own in a community where he was accepted and indeed had many friends.

Tim loved the outdoors and often went fishing with his friends from the Booth Centre. He especially loved going to the Goldeyes games or the football games when he had the chance.

Sundays would find him at chapel where he loved music and singing. He had a passion for music — all kinds of music from heavy metal to … gospel.

The last photo we have of Tim is him at a gospel meeting, reading from the Bible.

Even though Tim was independent and wanted to live on his own he was still very much connected to his family.

I had a weekly ritual with Tim.

He would call me on Mondays to arrange a day to come over to visit myself and his two nieces.

He would always come over early so then he could cut my grass or shovel the snow. He would do anything I asked him to.

He loved family get-togethers and celebrations. Even though he didn’t talk a lot, you knew he enjoyed being around our gatherings.

Now, when my parents come to visit, there’s an empty spot at the dinner table. I see the pain and the sadness in my parents’ eyes knowing that Tim won’t be there.

It would be easy to judge or dismiss Tim as a homeless bum based on where he lived and his physical appearance. But Tim was part of a loving family and was loved by us as well as his friends.

Tim was our gentle giant, he was generous to a fault and would never lift a hand against another. The tragedy is he chose to live independently —as was his right— and because of his challenges he was vulnerable.

I was his big sister and I should have been able to protect him but could not.

His death leaves a hole in our lives as it does for his friends and our community.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I and my family don’t think about him.

I miss him.

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24 city homicides, a list:

There’s been some confusion in the twitterverse recently about the number of homicides in Winnipeg so far in 2011. Here’s a quick reference list of victims and suspects. The details of the crimes are not comprehensive.

Updated Friday July 22: Deletes the arrests in Roger Michelle’s death [see below] and adds the criminal-negligence related arrest in a car-person collision in April.

Updated Wednesday July 27: Blogger Rae Butcher makes a point in the comments below: Joe McLeod was charged with manslaughter in connection to the death of a nursing-home patient. 

Updated again, same day: A story from 2008 where WPS asserts Criminal Negligence Cause Death Cases are no longer counted:

I guess the issue is, if I take out the ones below, that leaves us at 22, when the official tally is at 23. Therefore, I leave the Crim Negs for the record.

1] Jan 6: Darryl John SINCLAIR, 45, stabbed. Robert Carl PRINCE, 44 charged with 2nd-degree murder.

2] Jan 16: Zenon Sylvester BOZYNSKI, 48 injured, perhaps beaten outside a Redwood Avenue apartment block. Jamie Jossens MORRISSEAU, 27 years of Winnipeg and Gamielle William Harry COURCHENE, 25 years of Fort Alexander, Manitoba have both been charged with 2nd Degree Murder.

3] Jan 28: A 16-year-old male stabbed on Allegheny Drive. 28 year old Matthew Craig KRASNY of Winnipeg has been arrested and charged with 2nd Degree Murder as a result of his alleged involvement.

4 and 5] Feb 5: Darren Joey SWAMPY, 19 years of age and Lee Brady SPENCE, 22 shot on Elgin Avenue. Randy Murray WILLIAMS, 27 years of age was arrested and subsequently charged with 2nd Degree Murder x 2 as a result of his alleged involvement.

6] A 22-year-old man arrested in connection to a criminal negligence cause death case where a man was killed in a snowmobile crash on Jan. 13.

7] Feb 18: Casandra Lydia KNOTT, 27 is arrested for the homicide of Orzias Joram KNOTT, 34.

8] Feb 24: Senior citizen Elizabeth Lafantasie is found dead, stuffed in her trunk. A few days later Thomas Brine is arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

9] March 16, Abdul Rahim Mah JEMEI 22 is stabbed to death downtown. a 16 year old male is arrested soon after, and Ramsey SWAIN, 24 is charged March 29.

10] March 28: Frank Alexander dies after an alleged assault at Parkview Place. Joe McLeod, an alzheimer’s patient, is charged with manslaughter.

11]April 13: Joanna Storm died crossing Henderson Highway. An 18-year-old man is charged with criminal negligence cause death.

12] April 20, 42-year-old Sheila Fontaine is killed outside the Merchant’s Hotel on Selkirk. The arrest of Teya Wynter SPENCE, 18 is announced a few days later. She and three other teen girls face manslaughter charges.

13] April 29: 20-year-old  Trevor Harper is shot in the 500 block of Portage. 15 year old male youth was located and arrested in the area of Pembina Highway and Plaza Drive on May 4 .

14] May 10: Solomon Joseph Andrew TURNER found dead — stabbed — in his home. The next day, Lloyd Alfred Lindsay is charged with second-degree murder. Wanda Lisa RAHMAN (Bruce), 32 is charged with the same crime May 27.

15] May 14: Gina Swanson, 33 is found dead in her Edderton Avenue home. Case currently unsolved. anyone who may have information regarding this investigation is asked to contact them at 986-6508 or CrimeStoppers at 786-TIPS (8477).

16] May 16: Gerald Crayford, 54, dies after an apparent assault at a Pizza Hotline outlet. A 15-year-old is charged with second-degree murder. Byron Charlie Bushie, 18 is arrested and charged with the same crime a few days later.

17] May 21: Leslie Alex OKEMOW, 29 is found dead at the St. Regis. Arnold Harper turns himself in to face a manslaughter charge on May 21.

18] June 26: Steven Kyle DODGE, 26, found stabbed on Arlington. Same day: Nathan Allan BRICKLIN, 18 years of age is charged with second-degree murder.

19, 20, 21, 22, 23] Lulonda Lynn Flett is charged with five counts of second degree murder for the arson-related deaths of  Norman Darius ANDERSON, 22 years Maureen Claire HARPER, 54 years, Kenneth Bradley MONKMAN, 49 years, Dean James STRANDEN, 44 years, and Robert Curtis LAFORTE, 56 years. She also faces three attempted murder charges.

24] Cara Lynn HIEBERT, 31 is found dead in her home and is considered a homicide. Case as-yet unsolved. Anyone who has information regarding this incident is asked to call investigators at 986-6508 or CrimeStoppers at 786- TIPS (8477).

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Kinda bizarre is how the two as-yet unsolved homicides involve young mothers found dead in their homes.

As well, arrests were made in a 2009 homicide in January. June 13, 2009: Wayne Roger MICHELLE, shot. William Evan LAPORTE, 21 years and an 18 year old male, who was a youth at the time of the offence, have been charged with 1st degree Murder and Attempt Murder with a Weapon.

Homicide: best practices

[Note: For those looking for how to commit the perfect crime as the headline could suggest, this post is not for you.]

There’s been a lot of debate lately over the Winnipeg Police Service homicide unit’s operations, largely driven by a former supervising sergeant’s labour board complaint about how he was treated and how he believes the Winnipeg Police Service’s transfer policy hampers the effectiveness of the unit.

As previously stated, I won’t go into much greater detail about the Labour Board hearing so far, as it’s really Mike McIntyre and the Free Press’ baby (Links hereherehere and here).

But there’s a question I’ve been asking myself and finally dug into a but yesterday.

What, from an operational/internal POV makes for a (quote-unquote) good/effective homicide unit? The rate at which crimes are solved? Convictions? Response times?

Turns out a retired homicide commander in the U.S. wondered the same thing in 2007-08. A rising national homicide rate was worrying him and he began formally asking around among his peers.

Timothy Keel’s study, published by the FBI, is available here.

He sets out the issues as follows:

Nationally, the number of homicides reported by police departments to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program is on the rise.1 Equally disturbing, the clearance rate for those crimes continues to decline.Law enforcement officials are increasingly concerned about the reasons for these statistics and what they can do about them. Although most homicide unit supervisors are confident in their detectives’ abilities to solve cases, they might be asking themselves if, from a management perspective, their current practices and procedures allow for the highest possible clearance rate.

To explore these issues, the author conducted a study of homicide units across the country. He developed a questionnaire that pertained to a variety of operational and management issues and focused on how the well-performing units investigate homicides.3 Departments chosen for this study met two criteria: 1) they have more than 25 HPY (homicides per year) over a 5-year average, and 2) they submit crime data for the UCR Program.4 Eighty-one departments received questionnaires, and 55 completed and returned them.responses.

The finer points of the article break down trends and arrive at some kind of consensus about what ‘best practices’ are for murder police and their bosses. The summary goes as follows, bolded bullet emphasis mine.

Keys to a Successful Homicide Unit

  • No more than five cases per year as a primary for each detective
  • Minimum of two, two-person units responding initially to the crime scene
  • Case review by all involved personnel within the first 24 to 72 hours
  • Computerized case management system with relational capacity
  • Standardized and computerized car-stop and neighborhood-canvass forms
  • Compstat-style format
  • Effective working relationships with medical examiners and prosecutors
  • No rotation policy for homicide detectives
  • Accessibility to work overtime when needed
  • Cold case squads
  • Investigative tools, such as polygraph, bloodstain pattern analysis, criminal investigative analysis, and statement analysis
  • Homicide unit and other personnel work as a team
Personnel Rotation

The issue of rotating detectives out of the homicide unit after a set period of time, regardless of their effectiveness as an investigator, is a relatively new phenomenon plaguing many supervisors. While the concept of a rotation policy may have benefits from a management perspective, this study suggested that chiefs considering implementing such a policy for homicide detectives should proceed cautiously. For example, only 3 of the 55 departments had a rotation policy of any type within their detective division. No department with an average of over 80 HPY (ed: homicides per year) reported having a rotation policy for homicide detectives. Even agencies that currently have a rotation policy extend the period of time that a detective can remain in the unit.

[Aside: interestingly, Keel’s ‘study’ also reports a rise in clearance rates [clearance meaning a suspect was arrested/charged] when a prosecutor visits the homicide scene. But the involvement of prosecutors can also take away from clearing a homicide, likely because the lawyer demands more evidence be gathered prior to officers charging someone.]
Departments that typically involved a prosecutor in the early stages of an investigation had a higher clearance rate on average. The average clearance rate became progressively lower when prosecutors became involved during the later stages of an investigation. Conversely, departments that require detectives to consult prosecutors before issuing an arrest warrant had a 6.6 percent lower clearance rate than those that did not have such a requirement. Perhaps, departments that allow detectives to use their judgment pertaining to prosecutor notification and prosecutors comfortable enough to allow detectives that discretion have a better working relationship.
Typically, the Winnipeg Police Service’s homicide clearance rate has been very good, with — by my counting — roughly four out of five homicides being cleared by charging a suspect.
Annual reports from the WPS say 81 per cent of homicides cleared in 09-10 and 08-09. 
Seventy-seven per cent were cleared in 07-08, up 23 per cent from the year prior. 
Time will only tell how 10-11 and 11-12 pan out.
But no matter what police do in terms of the HR structuring of the unit, the investigators placed there, and the vagaries of their working conditions, Keel’s report is blunt when it comes to the number one thing cops need to solve killings — an aspect desperately lacking in the city when one considers the most recent unsolved murders in Winnipeg.
When questioned about the biggest barrier to achieving higher homicide clearance rates, one common theme occurred among all ranks: the lack of public/witness cooperation.
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‘Common purpose’

Joseph Victor MacLeod (Passagesmb)

In this blog’s last post, it talked about the recent homicide of Abdul Jemai and one of his alleged youthful attackers — who is a known quantity to police and the justice system.

It also led to this comment from the writer of local blog One Man Committee (a must read).

“That is downright chilling. It’s like a little bit of Afghanistan here in the ‘Peg – human IEDs, ready to explode at any given moment.”

It led me to think: that’s some strong imagery. Human IEDs.

And while some may feel it’s a little too strong — Mr. Krawec actually nails it squarely on the head.

Random guy in street attacked, killed — by young suspects. Because of the YCJA, the focus turns to ‘correcting’ the offender and eschews, by and large, deterring similar acts in the future.

In just a few short years of covering crime in Winnipeg, I’ve seen this scenario play out over and over again. Sometimes with fatal results, sometimes not.

It played out on May 23, 2009, in the death of Joseph Victor MacLeod near Isabel and Ross, for example.

Two cousins – each just 14 – surround MacLeod over some gang beef and start pushing him. He’s knocked to the ground, stabbed twice and dies.

The facts are, essentially — and no disrespect meant to the tragedy that occurred — boring.

On May 23, 2009 at 1 p.m. the accused N. M. and his cousin, R. G. noticed a male, Joseph Victor MacLeod, walking down the nearby lane adjacent to Ross Street where the boys were standing.

Both boys went towards the victim and the accused N.M. confronted the lone male for wearing a white bandanna.

The accused N.M. asked the victim what he “reps”.  This can be inferred as a gang challenge by the accused who had known gang affiliation.

The victim denied any involvement with a rival gang, took his bandanna off and started to walk away, but the accused  standing in front of the victim held him back with  both hands blocking his exit, while his cousin, standing behind the victim, held on to the back of his shirt with one hand.  The victim was struck a total of five times in the body by the accused and his cousin.

The co-accused cousin then stabbed the victim twice with a large 25 to 28 ccm. blade knife doing extensive internal damage resulting in death.

Immediately thereafter both boys fled.  It is an agreed fact that there is not any evidence that the accused was aware that his cousin was carrying a knife, brandished it and used it during the assault.

The victim died of these stab wounds.

—- from Judge Brent Stewart’s Feb. 25 decision

In late February, one of the boys — the one who didn’t stab MacLeod — was convicted of manslaughter. He’s awaiting sentencing.

The judge convicted him of the crime based largely on the “common purpose” principle — that he ought to have foreseen the possibility of McLeod’s death by participation in the assault:

Turning to the facts of this particular case.  The court is bound by the agreed statement of facts with some inferences.

The confrontation, which occurred related to what the court can infer as a gang turf challenge where the accused confronted the victim, challenging his wearing of a white bandanna, swearing at him and wanting to know who he “reps”.

The victim was trapped between the accused in the front and the accused cousin in the back.  As the victim started to walk away the accused held on by both hands blocking his exit and between the two boys the victim was hit five times in the body.

From these facts, and the action of the co-accused in concert it was apparent to the court that in fact this was a gang turf challenge, where the two co-accused intended through their actions to rough up (assault or lay a licking on the victim) and teach him a lesson of not coming into their turf.

The question then is whether or not there was objectively reasonable foreseeability of the risk of bodily harm being done by the accused on the victim.  To answer that one must look at the acts and words used by the accused as it related to the victim in concert with his cousin.

If the accused simply blocked the movement of the victim by a push or shove, such would be excluded from the definition of bodily harm as being merely trifle.  However, his holding on to the victim and then striking the victim in the body with two punches at the same time that his cousin was striking the back of the victim’s body with three punches, would in my opinion be foreseeable to injure the victim sufficient to amount to bodily harm.  It would be foreseeable that such an attack to the victim’s body in this manner would interfere with the health and comfort of the victim both physically and emotionally for some time and would not be trifling.

In any outcome I am certain that a random attack such as this would leave any victim with some psychological harm of a non trifling nature such that there would be fear of simply walking down the wrong street and being subject to an assault.

Similar fact scenarios have played out countless times in the city in recent years. I cite just off the top of my head:

  • This: Argument over T-shirt led to fatal stabbing
  • This: Manslaughter conviction overturned (now pending a decision from the Supreme Court — arguments heard in December)
  • This: Teens get one-day jail sentences for deadly beating
  • This: Man, 20, jailed for violent killing

Angry youth roaming the streets commit senseless acts of violence for no apparent reason (or reason that is in any way, shape or form acceptable).

Should we be shocked? Sure. Will that shock lead to meaningful change — or an actual discussion about how to curb it?

Likely not.

I’d submit that finding “common purpose” in this instance is not just for lawyers and judges.

Major Crimes: A week in review II

(Winnipeg police)

Without a doubt, the top local crime story this week involved the arrest of Thomas Brine, 25, in connection to the death of Elizabeth Lafantaisie. First degree murder is the charge, and strangulation the cause of death. No matter what, what happened to this woman is atrocious. Brine, despite his young age, is no stranger to the justice system in Manitoba. What may be interesting down the line is whether the “forensic evidence” police claim link Brine to the killing is a win for the RCMP DNA databank. I’m skeptical of that given the rapid-fire turnaround in what appeared to be a red ball homicide case one day and solved just a few days later. Fingerprints is my guess — but it is only a guess.

In other news, lawyer Robert Tapper had a better week than last with an even score in terms of his conviction rate. There was more (unfair) gnashing of teeth about his role as special prosecutor after WPS Constable Ken Anderson was acquitted of sex-related charges — but there was really no reason for it. Anderson was found not guilty after a full and transparent shake in the justice system. The story about the abuse was found to be just that — a story. I note no one has called for a review of the case in light of the acquittal, so here’s hoping Anderson can somehow get back to work and be able to put this behind him. But it won’t be an easy task, as Mike Sutherland of the WPA told CBC this week:

“Just the allegations alone cause challenges and sometimes they’re difficult to rebound from,” Sutherland said.

Tapper said he won’t appeal the Anderson ruling.

The lawyer’s week got better by Thursday, when former RCMP officer Benjamin Neufeldt was sent packing to jail for sexually exploiting a teen girl on a Manitoba reserve. Mike Mac of the WFP had a good story on the details of the case.

One thing good comes out of the recent Tapper cases, however — it’s brought to the surface the process by which independent lawyers are appointed in cases where a suspect has a direct connection to the justice system. As I’ve learned, Manitoba appears to be the only province where local lawyers are actually hired to prosecute cases independently from, but in consultation with, the justice department. Justice Minister Swan is promising to sit down with head of prosecutions Mike Mahon and see what’s what. It comes on the heels of a recent review of the provincial policy by retired Judge Ruth Krindle.

The media glare continued to shine on Justice Robert Dewar this week and several local stories examined past court decisions he’s made, at least one of which is under review by the Manitoba Court of Appeal, which could rule to order a new trial any day now. Alternately, it could not. The judge’s week got worse when the judiciary came forward with a statement about his status about not hearing cases of a sexual nature, followed by the news he either was punted or asked to recuse himself from sitting in the Wegier manslaughter trial — a decidedly non-sexual case.

(Allan Fineblit/Lawyersweekly.ca)

However, the most interesting information and reaction about the whole affair came from blogger/WFP reporter Melissa Martin, and an op-ed in the Free Press from Law Society head-honcho Allan Fineblit. While Fineblit starts off obviously referring to the Dewar furor but goes on the describe how the process of judicial appointments could be altered, he provides some useful information. I’d bet if you asked the average person what they think about the appointment of judges in Canada, you’d get a blank stare, followed by ramblings about blood sacrifices and cloaked old coots hunched over in some stone room waiting for a phone call from the PMO. We now know, through him, that that’s not the case.

I was waiting, though for someone to comment on the first few paragraphs of the piece that says the following [again – referring to, but not naming Dewar and his current predicament]:

Let’s face it, even good judges sometimes make mistakes, or lose their patience, or say the occasional dumb thing. They are, after all, human beings and to my mind the more humanity the better. Mistakes can be fixed. That is what the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court do for a living. But I am not writing this to tell you about what I think about our judges. I am writing it to tell you how we can do better.

Something strikes me that given the outcry about Dewar, many people don’t think he simply made a mistake, lost his patience or simply said a dumb thing in the sex-assault case ruling that brought all the attention.

But again, I have yet to see full transcript of the ruling, let alone the full trial testimony.

The Freep’s FASD series continued  — with today’s comprehensive look at youth justice and the disorder. It should come as no surprise to anyone, however, that the Manitoba Youth Centre is a convenient warehouse for kids with cognitive or other disorders. Still waiting on that mental health court, NDP.

In other news:

  • The united front known as the Devil’s Gap Cottagers have taken a unique land claims situation and are trying to turn their misfortune into some kind of advantage by suing their former legal team for millions.
  • In the days after the city settled with Manitoba Hydro over a long-standing tax dispute, the city filed a suit against local company J.A. Robinson for alleged problems with a tech system for its fleet of vehicles worth more than $600,000.
  • On the flip side, the WRHA is going after the city and trying to force it into arbitration over a dispute over rents involving one or two community health clinics. In court documents, the WRHA says it is seeking reimbursement of  alleged rent overpayments to the city between 2000-2007. The dispute has been brewing since 2006 and could be valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, lawyers for the health authority say. The amount is very much in dispute. An affidavit says the city has failed to respond to the WRHA’s letters “seeking the co-operation in the appointment of an arbitrator under the arbitration clause” of a lease agreement.
  • This guy has admitted responsibility to using  a former roommate’s kids he used to babysit to make child pornography with, among other things. Has to be one of the fastest turn-arounds for a major case I’ve ever seen. He was just arrested in January. Sentencing was adjourned to a later date.

Finally — kudos to Manitoba Justice and Crown attorney Lisa Carson [and by extension now-Judge Dale Schille] — for this. Although the penalty to some may seem like small potatoes for the blood that was shed, it’s the maximum allowed by law in Canada. In the U.S., he’d have likely faced execution or consecutive life terms for all three murders. I’m waiting to see if he’ll appeal, and on what grounds. That’s two adult sentences in two weeks for Manitoba Justice, and a third to follow this week, which I’ll be covering in detail.

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Statement from Elizabeth Lafantaisie’s family:

The family of Elizabeth Lafantaisie has prepared the following statement with a request that it be forwarded to all media agencies:

Any info on her death can be called into 786-TIPS (8477)

As provided through police Monday morning from the family of a woman killed and stuffed into the trunk of her car:

We are deeply saddened and shocked at what can only be described as the tragic and senseless death of our mother, sister, aunt, grandmother and great-grandmother. We cannot put words to our pain, only to say that she did not deserve to die in this way. We can only hope that in her final hours she didn’t suffer.

Our heartfelt and deepest thanks go out to the men and women of the Winnipeg Police Service who worked tirelessly to find her and bring her back to us. As we now prepare to lay her to rest, our thoughts and prayers go out to those same men and women who continue to search for her killer.

We are also very thankful to everyone else who made an effort to find our mother.

We only ask that if anyone has any information that can help bring her killer to justice that they call either the police or crimestoppers.


The family has asked for privacy. Police have no updates, but have asked the public for help.
This is her car, as found on Lewis Avenue near Osborne Village last Wednesday:

2006 Pontiac Grand Prix

Derksen: how it ended as second-degree murder

The 26-year mystery of who killed Candace Derksen has been solved.

Obviously, I wasn’t in the jury room at the trial of Mark Grant, accused of first-degree murder in Candace Derksen’s 1984 death.

Friday night, jurors who heard the evidence in the case found him not guilty of that charge, but guilty of second-degree murder.

While some say that’s an indication the schoolgirl’s death wasn’t planned or premeditated, it strikes me that that wasn’t the basis for charging Grant with first-degree.

The Crown alleged Grant forcibly confined Derksen, and therefore should be convicted of first degree, as the Criminal Code states.

In his instructions to the jury, Justice Glenn Joyal gave them a decision tree sheet that took them through the requisite steps they would need to go through to get to a conviction of first degree by forcible confinement.

I lay it out here below, in as best detail as my note taking skills allow:

  1. “Did Mark Grant abandon the hog-tied Candace Derksen in sub-zero temperatures?” If no, you must find him not guilty. If yes, move on to the next question.
  2. “Did Mark Grant’s abandonment of Candace Derksen cause her death?” If no, you must find him not guilty. If yes, move on to the next question.
  3. “Did Mark Grant have the state of mind to commit murder?” If no, you must find him not guilty of first degree murder, but guilty of manslaughter. If yes, move on to the next question.
  4. “Did Mark Grant do something that was ‘essential, substantial and integral’ to the killing of Candace Derksen?” If no, you must find him not guilty of first-degree murder, but guilty of second-degree murder. If yes, move on to the next question.
  5. “Did Mark Grant commit an offence under sec. 235 CC (forcible confinement)?” If no, you must find him not guilty of first-degree murder, but guilty of second-degree murder. If yes, move on to the next question.
  6. “Was the forcible confinement distinct and independent from the act of killing?” If no, you must find him not guilty of first degree murder, but guilty of second-degree murder. If yes, move on to the next question.
  7. “Was the forcible confinement and murder of Candace Derksen part of the same series of events?” If no, you must find him not guilty of first-degree murder, but guilty of second-degree murder. If yes, Grant must be guilty of first-degree murder.

We’ll never know how the jury arrived at their decision to acquit on the charge of first-degree, but convict on second degree.

And, as Wilma Derksen eloquently writes here, the ‘why’ of the case still remains a mystery. And in the ‘why’ is closure.

Being able to take in at least some of this trial was a privilege.

Say hello to last year

(Winnipeg Police Service)

One month before 2011 is set to begin, The Winnipeg Police Service officially releases its annual report for 2009.

 

Oddly, they’re also holding a press conference for reporters to discuss, ask questions about and dissect last year’s news.

I’ll save you the trouble. There’s none to be found in it. Well, almost.

Problem is it’s unfair to claim this data as reflective of anything because it’s so old.

Once again, the report notes police spend a lot of their time going to domestic disturbances. It’s far and away the patrol officer’s #1 job.

 

 

Homicide clearances are the same as in 2008, at 81 per cent. So, roughly 1 in 5 go unsolved. Not bad, given the gang problem in the city.

(Winnipeg Police Service)

Two other things jump out: (see chart)

 

1] The number of firearms/offensive weapons crimes jumped 46 per cent over 2008 — what appears to be a jump of about 200+ occurrences. A reflection of how much more potentially dangerous the city’s become — not just for the public — but for police officers as well.

2] A spike in robberies of 30 per cent, with a clearance rate of 29 per cent.

Robberies, however, were up 30 per cent last year over 2008.

That’s concerning, as robberies are frequently identified by the general public as a crime they are greatly concerned about. They should be.

In 2007-08, we saw a drop in robberies of about 16 per cent, but the clearance rate remained the same.

Arsons were also up in 2009 — by 35 per cent — but the clearance rate a slim 16 per cent.

The year before that, arsons jumped by a whopping 58 per cent, but the clearance rate was standing at about 26 per cent.

The thing that jumped out at me the most from last year’s report, however, has to be this statement:

Analysis has revealed that about 70% of the 5,000 missing person reports managed each year by the WPS are wards of child protection agencies. Many of these youths are chronic runaways, some with more than 150 police contacts. Research and experience has taught us that these chronic run- aways are frequently victimized, criminalized and exploited by predators while on the run from child- care facilities.

That just says to me the province is offloading its responsibility to care and watch over these kids to the police service and the city.

More must be done to supervise them, or the province should be kicking in more to pay for apprehending them.

Better yet — one thing the province could do is detail some probation officers to a quasi missing persons unit to head out and look for these kids. Would cost less and free up police officer time to bust robbers and gun-traffickers, instead of babysit.

But, who knows. It’s year-old news. Maybe everything’s changed since the dawn of 2010.

2009_wps_annual_report_english – PDF is 2+MB in size.

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PS: I did love this picture in it to accompany the page describing the “investigative” units:

(Winnipeg Police Service)

The suit-wearing suspect just says something to me, I guess.

No choice but to react

“Today, on many blocks, it is clear the bad guys have won, and the police and the law and peace of a civil society gave up and went home.”

Rob Galston, the Rise and Sprawl

No, that’s not true. At least not in my view.

Realistically, there’s only so many police to go around.

And in the wake of three separate shootings (two of them fatal) in a half hour — on top of all the other usual mayhem — the North End got — and is getting — as much police presence as the force can afford, if not more.

If the sheer presence of police officers made for a safer neighbourhood, then the North End should be one of the safest in North America.

On any given day in Winnipeg, there are more police around there than anywhere else in the city. One needs only to look at a GPS map of where the squad cars are to make that determination.

The Saturday shootings have renewed a call for the return to foot patrols in the area.

While on the surface, this sounds like a great idea, I’d predict there’s little chance the rank-and-file on the service would buy into this.

It’s one thing to cruise around a gun-infested hood in a squad car — entirely another to be walking about on foot, an easy target for armed fools.

Which sort of brings me to my larger point.

Ultimately, police are only as able to keep the peace as much as their jobs and authority are respected by the communities they serve.

I’d submit in all parts of Winnipeg, including the North End, there’s factions who completely lack that respect.

[UPDATE: For an excellent run-down of what life’s like for th average citizen living in the North End, see here]

For various reasons, some deserved, some not.

But, like a snake eating its tail, mistrust and racism and fear curb attempts by both sides to stop the violence.

Same goes for the law of the land. The majority of us know shooting people — under any circumstances — is wrong. Others just don’t seem to care and act out however they want.

There’s no respect there.

No respect for the fact that everyone is supposed to have the right to security of the person, to be able to walk the streets and be unafraid.

Kelcey had a recent blog post about crime prevention, explaining in detail why he favours a “kitchen sink” approach to fighting crime.

I’d suggest you read about how Los Angeles — a city with some very close similarities to the crime problems we have here — is doing what our police chief has been saying he wants to do ever since he was hired: Stop making the police the end-all-be-all solution to the problem. It’s bigger than that.

If we’re gonna fix anything, it starts within each of us.

Not with a helicopter, not with bigger guns, not with tougher laws that criminals just ignore anyways.

Tomorrow we (re)elect a mayor. In some sense, the way the votes swing is like taking the pulse of the city.

Of the two viable candidates running, one says more cops is the answer. In fact that’s pretty much all he’s said in my view. More police = more safety, less gang activity and more toughness.

The other, a career politician, has largely only talked about fixing the so-called “root causes” of crime like poverty, injustice, etc.

We, the voters — if we believe that crime response is an ‘electable’ issue worth getting off the couch for — are being asked to pick between two incomplete options.

Both options, in my view, are unpalatable given the level of violence we’re seeing.

It’s both candidates’ complete and utter lack of creativity that stuns me.

Gonna take back the neighbourhood? Then it’s pretty clear it’s up to us, first.

How do we get started?

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BTW Galston, your post was a fantastic read. Thanks.

“Not a crime disaster”

Good, workmanlike article about the Mynarski ward and crime from Rob Brown at the weeklies.

At the bottom:

Candidate Ross Eadie said less bureaucracy, not necessarily more cops, is needed to address the crime issue.

The North End is not a crime disaster, and neighbourhood police should be deciding where they are needed the most,” he said, adding that the Winnipeg Police Service should release more statistics on violent crimes to members of the public.

Don’t know about you, but there’s few other areas of the city where a 21-year-old mom can get shot and killed on her way to her car outside a reputed gang hangout and it barely raises a peep out of the “leadership” — or anyone else for that matter— in Winnipeg.

Phil Haiart, the son of a city doctor, was shot and killed crossing the street in the West End on Oct. 10, 2005.

By Oct. 13, there were screaming headlines like this one:

Will Phillipe’s killing be last straw?

and:

Teen’s death ‘call to arms’

By Oct. 14, the police service was weighing in:

Courts too soft, Ewatski warns

Coun. Russ Wyatt attempts to hold a public meeting of council to have a frank public discussion about drugs, crime and gangs in Winnipeg. He’s accused of grandstanding on the back of a tragedy and the meeting request is shot down.

One week after Haiart’s killing, we start to see:

City heeds ‘call to arms’

Winnipeg Free Press
Tue Oct 18 2005
Page: A1
Section: City
Byline: Bill Redekop

WINNIPEGGERS came together on several fronts yesterday to demand changes to conditions that led to last week’s death of an innocent 17-year-old bystander caught in a gang gunfight.

They seemed to have heard the “call to arms” that Philippe Haiart’s friends and family said his death represented.

At 3 p.m., Winnipeg Police Insp. Boyd Campbell received news that eight of 23 police graduates will be assigned to his inner city precinct, where Haiart’s shooting occurred, starting in two weeks.

Then, the next day:

A chance to voice our shared disgust over gang violence

Headlines like this continued for about 2 weeks (see above Re: police officers) and then:

‘In-your-face’ blitz unveiled

Winnipeg Free Press
Wed Oct 26 2005
Page: A1
Section: City
Byline: Bruce Owen

MAYOR Sam Katz and Police Chief Jack Ewatski teamed up yesterday to “take back our streets” with a blitz involving 45 police officers.

They announced Operation Clean Sweep and warned “in-your-face-policing” will target gangs, prostitution and drugs.

“We don’t need an ivory-tower policy discussion,” Katz said at an outdoor news conference at Langside Street and Sargent Avenue, near the site where St. John’s-Ravenscourt School graduate Philippe Haiart, 17, was killed by gang fire on Oct. 10.

And “operation clean sweep” was born, and would live on as a hallmark moment for policing and public safety in Winnipeg.

But three days after Tiffany Johnson was gunned down, there’s no evidence of a start to such a buildup or angry condemnation of what happened to her, except maybe from the police service.

And I mean from everyone: The community, the media, the politicians and the police service.

I suppose I just wonder why.

Is it that North End crime has become so ingrained in our minds that we — all of us — just look the other way?

Usually one can’t take one’s eyes off a disaster. Maybe that means Eadie’s right.

But I don’t think that’s it.

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