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This article was published 26/5/2011 (2166 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
WINNIPEG - The man responsible for the 1984 abduction and killing of Winnipeg teenager Candace Derksen has been given the maximum sentence allowed by law.
Mark Grant, 47, received a mandatory life sentence with no chance of parole for at least 25 years following a day-long sentencing hearing Thursday.
Queen’s Bench Justice Glenn Joyal said he was raising parole eligibility from the minimum of 10 years to reflect Grant’s horrific criminal record and the severity of a crime that shocked the province.
"This was a senseless and unspeakably cruel act. Uncertainty and dread eventually gave way to horror," said Joyal. "He tied up a helpless little girl to be left to the cruelty of a Winnipeg winter."
Jurors convicted him in February of second-degree murder following a month-long trial.
Candace was grabbed off the street on Nov. 30, 1984, while walking home from school, bound with rope and left to freeze to death inside a brickyard shed. Her body was found in the shed Jan. 17, 1985, after an exhaustive search that included hundreds of volunteers.
Crown attorney Brian Bell spent more than an hour outlining Grant’s past, which includes 23 previous convictions that have already seen him spend more than 20 years behind bars. He has been diagnosed as a high-risk to re-offend, especially when he stops taking anti-psychotic medications to treat schizophrenia.
Grant also has a disturbing history of violent sexual fantasies, including several he’s acted upon. He told one probation officer "all women are the same, they deserve to be treated like dirt" while claiming he gets an "extra kick out of watching his victims squirm," said Bell.
Grant has also described having hallucinations behind bars which include voices that leave him thinking he is the devil, court was told. Several court-ordered reports have concluded there is "no adequate community supervision that exists to protect citizens," said Bell.
"Any reasonable member of society would find Grant’s actions sadistic and callous," he told Joyal in seeking the maximum sentence allowed by law.
Defence lawyer Saul Simmonds argued that parole eligibility should only be raised as high as 14 years. He said Grant suffered a horrendous upbringing that included being abandoned by his mother, sexually, physically and emotionally abused by his father and them molested in a facility he was sent to by CFS as a teenager.
He urged Joyal not to lash out at Grant out of a misguided sense of justice.
"If there were true justice, Ms. Derksen would be returned to her family," said Simmonds. He said Grant actually functioned well in the community following his latest release from prison in 2004. He spent more than three years in the community without any reoffending while embracing programming and treatment.
Simmonds said his client has now began exploring his spiritual side, noting a nun who has been working with Grant behind bars was in court Thursday for support.
Jurors spent three days weighing the evidence against Grant, which largely consisted of DNA evidence that finally cracked the case in 2007. Grant is expected to appeal the jury's verdict, citing alleged errors made by the judge. He has 30 days to file the paperwork.
During the trial, Grant's lawyer, Saul Simmonds, attacked the Crown's case by accusing it of using "bad science" to try to solve the mystery. He said police ignored certain evidence that pointed away from Grant, contaminated the original crime scene and mishandled key exhibits, such as the twine used to tie Candace up.
The Crown told jurors their job would be relatively simple if they ignored the "red herrings" being thrown their way. Prosecutor Brian Bell said DNA evidence clearly connects Grant to the slaying, with only a one-in-50-million chance the genetic profile is from someone else. He said there is no reasonable explanation of how Grant's DNA could be at the crime scene if he didn't commit the crime.
Three pubic hairs were found on or near Candace's body, although police have said she wasn't sexually assaulted. Four scalp hairs that appeared to have been lightly bleached near the roots were on Candace's clothing. There is evidence Grant had dyed his hair around the same time and his profile couldn't be excluded. As well, DNA extracted from the twine was found to be a maternal match to Grant.
Mike McIntyre was Tweeting from Grant's sentencing hearing. Review his posts in the Cover it Live console below.