Wilma Derksen’s daughter Candace was 13 years old when she disappeared from school in Winnipeg on November 30,1984.
Candace’s broken body was found less than two months later in a storage shed close to the Derksen’s home.
It wasn’t until 2007 that police charged Mark Edward Grant with first-degree murder based on a DNA match.
The 53 year old Grant was convicted in 2011 in a first trial , but that decision was later overturned by the Manitoba Court of Appeal. A new trial was ordered for this year by judge alone, and Grant was found not guilty on Wednesday.
DNA testing featured heavily in both trials. In her decision, Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Karen Simonsen, said she accepted the defence argument that DNA evidence in the case against Grant was “fundamentally flawed.” Grant was released later in the day Wednesday.
We reached Wilma Derksen in an email interview following the verdict. She said “Candace’s spirit lives on in us and those around us. She continues to inspire us to live intentionally and generously.”
Forgiveness has been a theme surrounding Wilma and husband Cliff since the beginning of the tragedy so many years ago, particularly after charges were laid in Candace’s death.`
“Forgiving is a daily chore. It is as necessary as my daily shower. If I don’t wash my hair — I feel grubby very quickly.
Forgiveness needs to be intentional to be effective. It doesn’t happen naturally. The more searing the pain — the more time I spend in the shower. Forgiveness is about identifying the cause of anger or fear – naming the issue, and then “letting the negativity go.”
As for the family dealing with life and a gnawing sense of the need for justice in a somewhat prophetic moment, Derksen told Context earlier this year, “We continue to focus on our lives rather than justice. That’s really tough, it’s an ongoing struggle to look away from something that just draws our attention. Justice is so needed, so promising, so liberating; so it’s a constant struggle, I’m going to continue my life as if I will never know.”
Wilma’s faith in God has helped in her life, “Yes. Definitely—I think there’s a promise, ‘vengeance is mine – I will repay,’ God says in the Bible, and we see throughout the Bible stories about how God really does look after the justice issues. It’s best left in God’s hands because it’s so complicated.”
Wilma has also become a prolific writer, carrying Candace’s spirit and sharing her incredibly well written story in her book, “The Way of Letting Go..”
“I write not because I have that much talent but because I have a writer’s soul. I need to write it out to see what I am thinking.
Writing is the way I process, the way I remember, the way I love others, the way I connect with others, and the way I share my gifts.
Next to writing my own projects, I find great fulfillment in encouraging others to write. I think everyone has a life story that is aching to be explored and told.”
“Candace continues to inspire us to live intentionally and generously” – Wilma Derksen
With files from Susan Ponting