Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
They don't teach you about this at journalism school
Several hours have passed but I am still shaking my head over what went down during the first hour of Sunday's "Crime and Punishment" national radio show.Convicted killer Leon Walchuk was joining me on the air live from his prison cell in Saskatchewan when a very surprising phone call came in to the studio.It was his 13-year-old daughter, Kim. She wanted to join the discussion.Walchuk had come on with me to talk about the life sentence he received for murdering his estranged wife in 1988 near Melville.He claims he is innocent and has several backers in his corner who were also on the show, including former Canadian broadcaster turned private investigator Peter Warren and a worldwide arson expert from Texas who's been studying his case and has found flaws in the Crown's evidence.While on commercial break - and just before I brought Kim and her adult caregiver on the air - Walchuk told me he was thrilled she was calling because she too believed in his innocence.He was dead wrong.What followed was the most unpredictable and emotional encounter I've ever heard over the airwaves.This poor girl, who has already lost her mother in horrific fashion, was now taking on her killer Dad with a national audience listening in."You did it. You're guilty," she said. An obviously shaken Walchuk said his daughter was being "brainwashed" by other factions of the family, including his ex-wife's parents."Grandma and grandpa are putting things in you're head," he said."No they're not, Dad. I know what happened," Kim said firmly, her voice starting to crack.Evenutally she broke down in tears, practically begging her father to take responsibility for murdering her mother. Walchuk was sympathetic but refused to back down, saying he is an innocent man who's been wrongly convicted. He wants the federal government to review his case.Warren - who's worked with folks such as Thomas Sophonow and Jim Driskell - says he believes in Walchuk 100 per cent.The awkward father-daughter discussion continued off-air. Walchuk pleaded with Kim to come and visit him behind bars. She agreed to think about it.Then came an avalanche of emails. Listeners were clearly divided between wanting to see a judicial review of his case and wanting Walchuk to shut his mouth and let his emotionally scarred daughter and family get on with their lives.It was all quite surreal, the kind of thing you can't really prepare for as a journalist. I went from being an interviewer to a referee/family counsellor in a heartbeat.At the end of the day, the segment certainly provided a rarely seen public glimpse into the way crime can literally tear a family apart.And it also proved that anything, and I mean ANYTHING, can happen on live radio.(If you'd like to go back and listen to the interview, Winnipeg radio station CJOB has an audio vault with the show stored. Just go HERE
and type in Dec. 3, 1 p.m. to hear the entire segment)Surely the discussion on this case - and what went down Sunday - will continue.If you want to read more about Walchuk's claims, you can visit this website - www.saskatchewangold.com
. Be advised, it's a pro-Walchuk site so don't go expecting balance. But there is plenty of detaila about the case.You can also go HERE
to read a news story about Sunday's developments on "Crime and Punishment".And if you've got a thought on this case, feel free to post it below.