My wife was almost 3 years old when her cousin Candace Derksen was found dead in a shed in Winnipeg. Recently a man was convicted and subsequently sentenced for the crime of 2nd degree murder. As extended family, we got together with many friends to reflect on the 20 plus years it took for some element of closure to take place and to read our various ‘victim impact statements.’ Katrina thought it would be a good idea to put it on this blog as a means to share with others about her experience. Below is my beautiful wife reflecting on the cousin she never got to know.
Katrina Lenshyn’s victim impact statement
January 17th 1985, a day that would be forever etched into my families memory, the day that my cousin Candace was found frozen to death in a shed in Winnipeg. That happened just before my 3rd birthday. Growing up I always knew about Candace, she was my cousin and she was murdered. If memory serves me correctly “Have you seen Candace?” was the first novel I read the whole way through.
Growing up in BC I didn’t have much connection with my Auntie Wilma, Uncle Cliff and two cousins, Odia and Syras because they lived so far away. After moving to Winnipeg in 2003 they were the only family (on my side) that I had here. I’ve only ever known them as a family of four, and that was about to change when I walked into work one day in 2007 and saw Candace’s face on the cover of a local newspaper because they had made an arrest in her murder. I remember it hit me harder than I had anticipated and was shocked to feel tears running down my cheeks and needed a few moments to compose myself. It was after that that I started to feel connected to the cousin I never got to know. I remember going over to my Auntie Wilma’s and meeting Heidi (Candace’s best friend) and David (Candace’s friend and the last one to talk to her on the day she disappeared) and I got to hear them talk about her, not just about the tragedy, but about her as a person. This made her come alive to me, and it sounds strange but for the first time she was a person, my cousin, and not just a news headline.
When the trial started 26 years to the date that Candace was found I wasn’t sure how I was going to react, or how I was going to be a support to my family. I felt disconnected and a little uncomfortable because I never knew Candace, and wondered if it was my place to share in such an intimate, and emotional time with my family. At the same time I could feel myself starting to connect with Candace and who she was. I remember sitting in the court room waiting for it to start not knowing what to feel. That changed when they brought Mark Grant into the room and I saw him in the flesh. All of the sudden I was overwhelmed with anger, sadness, and pity. I told Chris this and he said to me “that makes sense, this man took away a cousin you never got to know”. I held onto those words, and still do.
I was only able to make it to one of the court days, and as it happened that was the day where witnesses took the stand and told the judge about the last time they saw Candace. David told us about the snowball fight that he and Candace had just before she started that fateful walk home, and I found myself imagining what she must have been like, she sounded like a fun person to be around, a cousin I could have shared a lot of laughs with. I was thankful for that day in court and for the stories that were told because nobody had ever talked about her life to me, I just knew about the way she died. I wanted to hug those witnesses for giving me a glimpse into who she was. It’s almost like I felt her there with us.
The next days and weeks passed in a whirlwind and we tried to be there for my family as much as we could. We would go to what my Aunt called “Happy Hour” at her place after each day of the trial to be there for them, encourage them, listen to what their day was like, and of course share laughter. The three days of jury deliberation we were at the courthouse trying to bide our time but of course sitting on pins and needles waiting for that call letting us know the jury had reached their verdict. I have never seen my family come together like this. Everyone coming out as much as they could to be with them, to walk with them through this uncharted territory. When that call did come in that the jury had reached their verdict, and we were all sitting there in the courtroom I’m sure you could hear a pin drop. I watched my Aunt, Uncle and cousins as the verdict was read, guilty of 2nd degree murder, and prayed, I didn’t know what to pray for, peace, forgiveness, happiness, comfort, what do you pray for at a time like that?
The following day a memorial was held at Candace’s grave, and I was standing directly in front of her tombstone feeling more connected to her than I ever have. Through all this pain and uncertainty the one thing that I can take from this is that I got to know Candace better. The message that day, and for all the days to come, was one of forgiveness, and this is the journey we are all on, not just about what happened to Candace, but as part of being followers of Christ.