WINNIPEG – The Candace Derksen murder case is back in court, more than 30 years after her murder.
Mark Grant has once again pleaded not guilty to a charge of second degree murder in the 1984 killing of Derksen, 13. He was convicted by a jury in 2011 but that conviction was overturned following a lengthy legal appeal.
Derksen vanished while walking home from Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute on November 30, 1984. Her body was found tied up in a shed at an industrial yard weeks later in January of 1985.
Day one of Grant’s new trial is focusing on the last day Derksen was seen alive.
A school mate named David Wiebe, now in his forties, told court he and Derksen knew each other from a summer camp they attended.
He saw Derksen on the phone that afternoon and jokingly gave her a “face wash” with snow before the two talked briefly. Derksen told him she was walking home. Wiebe, who admitted he had a crush on Derksen, said he told her he would drive her home if he had his license and went to drivers education class.
He said Derksen definitely left on foot but he wasn’t exactly sure which direction.
Hours later, Derksen’s mother Wilma came to the school where he was still at choir practice. She told him Candace didn’t come home.
“Pretty Much A Normal Day…”
In a heartbreaking statement read to court by prosecutor Brent Davidson, Wilma Derksen said the day her daughter went missing had started like any other.
She dropped her husband off at work and had been home watching her two younger children when Candace called. She wanted a ride home and for the pair to go shopping.
Wilma told Derksen she couldn’t pick her up that day but promised they would go shopping that night.
When Candace didn’t show up at home, Wilma drove out to look for her and eventually ended up back at the school.
She described a frantic search that evening that ended with a call to police around 7 p.m.
Derksen’s Body Discovered
Derksen’s body was found by an employee at an industrial yard in the same general area where she went missing.
He is now deceased but told court through a prior statement he had first thought the body was a doll. He went and told his boss. Eventually, they both called police. Neither of them touched the body.
The boss testified in court today he believed the body was covered by an old parka. It had been bound with twine.
Defence Lawyers Question Witnesses
Grant’s lawyers attempted to create doubt about Grant’s guilty by suggesting the possibility to other suspects.
Under cross examination, Wiebe admitted he could never have been sure Derksen didn’t get into a vehicle after walking away from school.
The owner of the industrial yard later admitted his property had no fence and no video surveillance. He said people came and went on the property all the time and there wasn’t much way to tell.
He admitted he didn’t know which of his employees may have had access to twine.
Grant’s lawyers also questioned the first few police officers on scene about whether they wore gloves or masks when at the crime scene.
One officer admitted there were no DNA protocols back in 1985.
Grant was arrested on the strength of DNA evidence back in 2007. Hair samples were taken from him to compare with samples found at the crime scene.
DNA experts and other police officers will testify later on in the trial.
It is slated to last several weeks. There is no jury. Grant’s fate will be decided by a judge alone.