'I just felt wonderment': Wilma Derksen revisits slain daughter's belongings as she waits for retrial verdict
When Wilma Derksen opened the boxes that held her daughter's belongings — untouched for 32 years — it was like having a conversation.
"It was just so fun to see all these little hints of what she was like and having a kind of conversation and moment with her alive," Derksen said.
The mother said it's one of the ways she is dealing with limbo — the four-month waiting period between the retrial and verdict for the man accused of killing her 13-year-old daughter, Candace, decades ago.
Candace disappeared while walking to her Elmwood home in Winnipeg in November 1984. After weeks of exhaustive searching, she was found dead of exposure and hypothermia in January, tied up and left in a shed.
The case went cold for more than two decades, until Mark Grant was arrested in 2007 after forensic evidence linked him to the case. A jury found Grant guilty of second-degree murder in 2011 and he was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
After a 2013 appeal, Grant regained the presumption of innocence, with his defence team arguing possible evidence of a different killer was improperly excluded from his first trial.
Grant's judge-only retrial began in January and ran until May. The verdict is expected on Oct. 18.
Derksen said the experience has rehashed the pain, grief and loss, and no matter the outcome, she will not feel satisfaction.
"For a man to go to prison or to be sentenced for second-degree murder is not something to celebrate. Then, on the other hand, not guilty means perhaps we are making vulnerable people more vulnerable and that really hits me hard as a mother and as a citizen of Canada, that we need to create safety for our children," she said.
"I am caught in this dilemma of not knowing how to deal with this myself, so I'm just glad there is a judge."
The case has gripped Manitoba for decades, but Derksen said while she gets support from the community, it's hard to find ways to relate. Not many other families have had a daughter murdered, a man found guilty and then a retrial.
To work through her emotions while waiting for the outcome, Derksen decided it was finally time to revisit her daughter's belongings. In her Fort Richmond home last week, Derksen opened the four boxes packed with Candace's belongings, which she had moved but never explored.
"At that moment, I just felt wonderment. I was so curious," she said.
"I thought I would be sad but I wasn't. When I opened it I thought, 'Oh my word. I didn't remember this.' I just went through all of it and then I opened some letters that had never been opened by me, they'd been opened by Candace."
She found her daughter's favourite pink, flannel blanket, still tattered and torn at the edges. Her daughter's poodle-type bank was in the box and Derksen said she noticed it had been repaired with paper and tape.
"I didn't cry then, but thinking back, she was alive when I did it," Derksen said, breaking into tears.
"Now I'm feeling the departure, but right at that moment it was, 'Wow! I am having a visit with Candace.' So I didn't cry. I just enjoyed the entire experience of finding this poodle that looked a bit like a clown."
The verdict is still more than three weeks away, but Derksen doesn't think she will need to go back to the boxes. She said she will leave them for her other children as a gift, "so that they will have their visit with Candace."