Winnipeg police have arrested a man they believe is responsible for the homicide of 13-year-old Candace Derksen, whose death more than 20 years ago is one of the city's most high-profile and shocking,
Police sources confirmed detectives recently cracked the cold case after DNA collected at the scene of the 1984 slaying matched that of a convicted sex offender who was ordered to submit a sample to a national data bank.
Information about the man and his past conviction or convictions was not available. Police are expected to release more details when they publicly announce the arrest as early as today.
Details about the crime are horrific and disturbing. Someone abducted Candace, bound her hands and feet behind her back with thick rope, and left her to freeze to death in a machinery shed just south of the Nairn Avenue overpass. Her body was found seven weeks later.
Police said there were no signs of a physical or sexual attack. Candace's mom previously told the Winnipeg Sun she believes her daughter was taken to the shed to be sexually assaulted, but for whatever reason the perpetrator didn't carry out the attack.
Officers found used chewing gum, food wrappers, and hair samples at the scene.
During the two decades it went unsolved, Derksen's parents, Cliff and Wilma, went through an agonizing period, fearing the person who murdered their daughter would never be found or tried by a court.
"In our minds, with all this passage of time, we have a sense of hopelessness in it having any positive results of ever being resolved. And so I guess we've come to that sort of mindset," Cliff told Sun Media in 2005.
"Usually, in cases like this, over time somebody will drop a hint or say something or brag or do something that gives them away to some extent or at least gives a lead. And nothing's happened apparently."
Derksen's mother declined comment when reached last night.
Candace was last seen by her friends on the afternoon of Nov. 30, 1984, as she walked home along Talbot Avenue, police said. She was coming from Mennonite Brethren Collegiate, where she was in Grade 7. The temperature dropped to -25 C that night.
Despite a massive search by relatives, police and volunteers, her body wasn't found until Jan. 17, 1985, in a rarely-used shed on Alsip's Industrial Products property, about 500 metres from her family's Herbert Avenue duplex. An Alsip's employee made the grisly discovery when he went to the shed to look for an old saw.
Veteran officers were bothered by the case.
"It's been a very, very disturbing case. It still haunts a lot of people," police Chief Jack Ewatski, a homicide investigator at the time of the murder, told Sun Media in 2001. "Every time I drive over the Nairn overpass, it brings back memories.
"To me, she died a horrible death knowing her cries for help were going unanswered. She must have felt very hopeless and very alone."
Police sources said the break in the Derksen case reinforces the value of a DNA data bank.
Some former officers believe several other crimes could be solved if DNA is collected from more than 200 offenders who are under court order to submit a sample. Of those who have disobeyed the order, more than 30 are convicted sex offenders, sources said.
"This has a huge potential to solve cases, but for some reason the court orders have never been enforced," said one retired officer.
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