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Commission of Inquiry into the Wrongful Conviction of David Milgaard

page fourteen

David Milgaard in jail cell

Retired officer refuses to apologize, leaving Joyce Milgaard in tears

Joyce Milgaard wept as a former Saskatoon police detective began to apologize but then denied he had anything to apologize for.

"I started to cry because I thought finally, someone is admitting they did something wrong and we're making progress. And then I really cried when he turned it around and said he did nothing wrong and that he had nothing to apologize for," Joyce Milgaard said Thursday during a break at the inquiry into the wrongful conviction of her son, David Milgaard, who spent 23 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit.

"The whole thing, the denial, denial, denial, I find extremely upsetting and unbelievable," she said.

Retired Det. Eddy Karst said he accepts some of the responsibility for what happened to Milgaard.

Responding to questions from lawyer James Lockyer, who represents Joyce Milgaard, Karst said he certainly didn't feel good about it.

Lockyer asked Karst if he ever wanted to apologize.

"No. I certainly feel sorry for David Milgaard, or anyone else that has been wrongly incarcerated, or for Mrs. Milgaard having been put through this, however, I did nothing wrong in my opinion and I don't feel I have anything to apologize for," Karst said.

Gail Miller

Karst became a main investigator looking into the Jan. 31, 1969, death of Gail Miller after Albert Cadrain, then 16, told Karst he had seen blood on Milgaard's clothes the day of the crime.

Karst was dispatched to Winnipeg the same night and interviewed Milgaard, also then 16, for several hours.

During the next 11 weeks Karst and other Saskatoon police failed to obtain evidence that would support a murder charge.

Two Regina teens, Ron Wilson and Nichol John, gave matching alibis for Milgaard, saying he was never away from them long enough to have committed the crime.

By April 16, 1969, police had worked out a theory that Milgaard was intent on stealing a purse of a nurse the three teens had asked for directions. The theory had Milgaard lose control of his sexual impulses and rape and stab the young woman.

Karst and Ray Mackie brought Wilson and John to Saskatoon from May 21 to 24. Each was driven around the area of the killing and questioned extensively. An interrogation specialist brought in from Calgary conducted a polygraph on Wilson. Knives were shown to the teens and Miller's blood-stained dress was shown to John.

The teens gave statements over four days that laid out the same story police had theorized, Lockyer showed.

The only way Wilson and John could have known the facts they gave in their damning statements was if police gave them the information, Lockyer suggested.

Karst said that is a viable suggestion, but he can't imagine Saskatoon police doing it.

Karst said he thinks Wilson and John simply lied. But he also rejected a suggestion that Wilson and John separately invented the same lies about Milgaard.

Lockyer asked how could they have made up matching stories that fit the known facts of the crime. Karst said he had no idea.

Karst also said he might have been aware that police suspected that a rapist then active in the neighbourhood was the killer.

But he said he didn't make the connection until three weeks after Milgaard was convicted, when the rapist struck again and Karst was assigned to part of the investigation.

The rapist turned out to be Larry Fisher, who had lived in Cadrain's basement at the time of Miller's murder. Karst said he didn't realize that at the time, and he doesn't know why he and Det.-Sgt. Ray Mackie asked Cadrain if he knew anything about an unnamed suspect in the new rape case.

Karst said he doesn't remember going to Winnipeg eight months later to question Fisher, who confessed to some of the Saskatoon rapes. He said he doesn't know if he asked Fisher about the other rapes to which Fisher later confessed.

Karst also said he doesn't think he connected the rapes to the Miller murder.

Karst said he can't remember knowing that Fisher's ex-wife, Linda Fisher, told Saskatoon police in 1980 that she thought Fisher had murdered Miller. Linda said they had lived in Cadrain's basement, her paring knife was missing after Miller's death and Larry had become nervous when she accused him of the killing.

When Karst was confronted with previous sworn testimony where he acknowledged knowing about Linda Fisher's allegations, Karst said he didn't act on the new information because no one assigned it to him.

"As a human being you thought the wrong man might be in jail. You might have saved him 12 more years in prison. How can you explain that nothing was done?" Lockyer said.

"I can't explain," Karst said.

Karst says he warned senior officers about doubts in Milgaard case

Former detective Eddy Karst did his part to inform higher-ranking decision-makers about weaknesses in the case against David Milgaard, Karst said Monday at the Milgaard wrongful conviction inquiry.

Karst told his superiors in an April 18, 1969 report, that Albert Cadrain's story of seeing blood on Milgaard's clothing should be re-examined because two teenagers who had been with Milgaard at the time of the murder maintained he was never away from them long enough to have raped and murdered nursing assistant Gail Miller, Karst said under cross-examination by his lawyer, Aaron Fox.

Weeks later, after the two other teens gave new, damning statements against Milgaard, Karst pointed out that one of them, Ron Wilson, had contradicted himself, even as he added new information.

Karst noted that in a May 1969 statement implicating Milgaard in the murder, Wilson said he didn't see blood on Milgaard's clothing. The next day, Wilson said he did see blood.

Fox raised the topic in response to suggestions last week by Milgaard's lawyer, Hersh Wolch, that police had "tunnel vision," in which they ignored any information that tended to weaken the case against Milgaard, while focusing on and exaggerating information that supported the case.

Karst told Fox he thought Wilson was a "dubious" witness, but Karst took comfort in knowing that a senior interrogator from Calgary had subjected Wilson to a lie detector test and was satisfied with his story.

Senior officers in the Saskatoon Police Department, not Karst, decided the direction of the investigation, he said.

Karst said he thinks Detective Sgt. Raymond Mackie, Detective Jack Parker, Detective Sgt. George Reid and Lieut. Joe Penkala were the principal leaders of the investigation.

Karst didn't know what role Supt. Jack Wood played because Karst didn't attend meetings in Wood's office where most of those officers met to discuss the investigation.

Also on Monday, Karst agreed with Fox that Wilson and Nichol John could have obtained information about the murder, which they included in their false statements against Milgaard, from news reports or from people who had read the news.

Last week Joyce Milgaard's lawyer, James Lockyer, suggested police must have fed information about the crime, along with their theory of Milgaard as the murderer, to Wilson and John. Lockyer suggested there was no other way the Regina teens could have known details about the crime.

Fox showed several articles which appeared in The StarPhoenix and one from the Regina Leader-Post, which revealed that Miller had been stabbed and her throat slashed, the exact location where the body was found, the murder weapon and that Miller's purse had been found in a nearby garbage can.

Fox also reminded Karst that a friend of John's, Barbara Burrard, has said she and John talked about Milgaard being suspected in the murder. It was possible the teens had spoken to each other some time before they gave false statements, Karst agreed.

On Karst's fifth and final day on the witness stand, he gave answers indicating definite memories of the day Wilson and John were interrogated by Roberts, the Calgary polygraph expert. The memories stand in contrast to Karst's many claims of little to no memory of many events related to the Milgaard case.

Karst said he was called to take Wilson from the Sheraton Cavalier hotel room, where he had been questioned, to the police station, where Karst took a statement from Wilson.

Karst also denied a statement made about him by Roberts years later, when the Supreme Court of Canada reviewed Milgaard's conviction. Roberts told the Supreme Court Karst was present when Roberts went through Wilson's and John's damning statements, with the teens present, to see if there were any discrepancies in their stories.

"No sir. I was not there," Karst stated.

Former officer discarded rape file

A former Saskatoon morality officer tried to distance himself from knowledge of Larry Fisher's rape convictions, saying someone else put his name on a report that shows Saskatoon police were aware of Fisher's confessions.

"I don't think I left that report . . . I didn't leave it," Stanley Weir told the Milgaard wrongful conviction inquiry Tuesday.

Weir said a rape file he was investigating had gone missing in the fall of 1970, and when he asked his boss, morality unit Insp. H. Nordstrom, about it, he received a terse reply.

"I was told summarily by Nordstrom it was taken care of and it was no longer my concern," Weir said.

He said the incident happened sometime after Eddy Karst, a detective, had gone to Winnipeg to interview Fisher.

Weir said he didn't learn Fisher's name until years later, when Karst told Weir that that he and Nordstrom had gone to Winnipeg in October 1970 to interview Fisher about his involvement in four Saskatoon sexual assaults.

Weir was the lead investigator on one of the rapes, which occurred about three weeks after David Milgaard was convicted of killing Gail Miller.

The concluding report on that rape file shows a police officer returned the victim's belongings to her and told her the assailant was in a North Battleford institution with mental problems.

The officer also showed the victim a single Polaroid photograph of a man she identified as her assailant.

The woman told the commission of inquiry earlier this year that she remembers a police officer showing her a picture of Larry Fisher.

Other former Saskatoon police have said they didn't know Fisher's name or that he had been convicted in Regina of the Saskatoon assaults.

Milgaard's supporters have said Saskatoon police deliberately suppressed information about Fisher's confessions to avoid questions about possible connections to Miller's death.

Milgaard's appeals of his conviction were still ongoing when Fisher first confessed. Information about the confessions might have helped Milgaard's case, they have said.

Weir contradicted himself during testimony Tuesday. He said he sought more information about the rape case, but then said he was too busy to bother.

He also said he sought the files on other rapes Fisher committed, but later said he didn't because he didn't know Fisher's name.

Weir said he didn't believe Nordstrom about the file being taken care of so he went to central records and got a copy of the file.

It did not contain the concluding report or any reports about anybody confessing to the crime.

Although he was curious enough about the outcome of the case to carry the copy of the file with him for several years, Weir said he never asked the officer who filled out the documents when an accused person was officially charged, if charges had been laid in that rape case.

"Why would I? I had other fish to fry," Weir said.

The hours of questioning Tuesday appeared to take an emotional toll on Weir, who sometimes sat with his arms tightly crossed in front of him.

The inquiry took a short break early in the afternoon, when Weir was overcome by emotion.

His voice cracked and he wiped his eyes as he responded to questions about a 1991 Globe and Mail article in which he was quoted criticizing senior police officers.

Weir said he threw away his copy of the rape file after Karst told him in 1977 about the 1970 Winnipeg trip to interview Fisher.

Weir said all the rape files were missing by then.

When asked by commission counsel Doug Hodson if he told a commission looking into missing police files in 1991 that he had thrown away what might have been the only remaining copy of that file, Weir replied, "No. What was the point?"

Weir returns to the witness stand today.

Hearing transcripts are available on the commission's website at

Witness statement didn't match evidence, Milgaard inquiry hears

A major discrepancy in the murder case against David Milgaard was never discussed with the officer who took care of the physical evidence.

Identification officer Thor Kleiv told the Milgaard wrongful conviction inquiry Wednesday it was obvious to him that Gail Miller's nurse's uniform had been removed to her waist and her coat put back on before she was stabbed to death on a bitterly cold morning in January 1969.

Kleiv said he didn't hear investigators talking about an inconsistency in witness Nichol John's statement that she saw Milgaard stab a woman after grabbing her purse. The statement didn't provide any opportunity for the dress top to come off before the stabbing.

Kleiv was among the first officers on the scene. It was his job to gather and photograph evidence, store it and keep track of who had it when it was out of his possession.

Miller's stylish black coat, with its fur collar and cuffs, had five holes in it, which pathologist Dr. Harry Emson matched to stab wounds on her body. There were no knife holes in the uniform dress, but its zipper was broken and there was a tear in the front.

Kleiv said he thought the rapist might have allowed the young woman to put her coat back on after her dress top was pulled down because it was so cold outside.

He said he wasn't present at meetings where higher-ranking officers made decisions about the investigation, but he did learn that John had said she'd seen the stabbing.

When Joanne McLean, lawyer for Milgaard's mother, Joyce, asked Kleiv if he had casual conversations with other police about the clothing's disarray, he replied, "I don't recall anything that was said."

When asked if he recalled hearing anybody else talking about John's story being "troublesome," Kleiv said he "may have."

He said he doesn't recall anything specific and had "no direct conversation" about it.

Milgaard's lawyers have alleged that John, then 16, was pressured into signing a statement containing a story first laid out in a previously drafted police theory. That theory also ignored the question of how the dress top came off before the stabbing.

John never again acknowledged seeing the stabbing.

When her statement was shown to her at Milgaard's trial, she said she didn't remember it.

She has continued saying she doesn't remember through numerous legal hearings in the 36 years since then, including at a 1992 Supreme Court review and at this inquiry.

Kleiv's documentation about storage of the evidence also shows that Det. Sgt. Raymond Mackie came and borrowed Miller's coat, dress and bra from Kleiv on May 23, 1969, and returned them the next day.

The commission of inquiry has heard that the items were given to Calgary police interrogator Art Roberts, who showed the dress to John.

At the sight of the blood-stained dress, John suddenly declared she remembered seeing the stabbing, the inquiry has heard.

Kleiv said it was not unusual for investigators to borrow evidence to show to witnesses.

Investigator suspected Milgaard had guilty conscience

When David Milgaard's girlfriend told Saskatoon police Sgt. John Malanowich that Milgaard wanted to repay a Regina girl he had cheated in a marijuana deal, Malanowich thought Milgaard was actually admitting a "guilt complex" for killing a girl in Saskatoon.

Malanowich had an open mind when he went to Edmonton to see Sharon Williams, he told the Milgaard wrongful conviction inquiry Thursday.

He said police must avoid "tunnel vision" when investigating crime.

Milgaard's lawyer, Hersh Wolch, has accused Saskatoon police of such a failure, suggesting they over-emphasized information that tended to implicate Milgaard in the 1969 death of nursing assistant Gail Miller and ignored or downplayed information which tended to exculpate him.

Milgaard had visited Williams the day after Miller was killed in Saskatoon.

Malanowich was sent to interview the 17-year-old girl three weeks after Albert (Shorty) Cadrain told police he had seen blood on Milgaard's clothing the day Miller was killed.

Milgaard and two other teens had given independent statements saying they were never out of each other's company long enough that morning for Milgaard to have committed the crime.

Nor did Williams provide any evidence to support a murder charge against Milgaard.

She did not see blood on any of Milgaard's clothing and he hadn't said anything about his hours-long stop in Saskatoon the day before, her statement shows.

"David said something about a girl was going to buy some marihuana (marijuana). She gave him some money but that he took off without giving her the marihuana and he also kept the money. He said that this happened in Regina just before they came to Edmonton. . . . He mentioned something about getting a bag of marihuana back to the girl in Regina, to me it seemed not like David to do something like that," Williams' statement says.

The remarks took on a sinister meaning for Malanowich.

"I think that in a way David Milgaard possibly did in this way admit a guilt complex and instead of saying that he killed a girl, he shared his guilt by talking about it substituting marihuana for sex and the money he received as the money he took from the murdered girl's purse," Malanowich wrote.

Malanowich's report contains other opinions attributed to Williams but which are not supported by her statement.

"It is quite obvious from talking to her that she thinks that David Milgaard is capable of murder. She was queried twice on this point and she definitely without hesitation stated this," Malanowich's report says.

Those answers are not in Williams' statement, nor is there a record of her calling Milgaard "abnormal."

"She made it quite clear he seemed to be running away from something, she sensed this," Malanowich wrote.

Williams' statement says, "Ron (Wilson) wanted to stay on in Edmonton to get a job and Shorty wanted to go on. It seemed to me David just wanted to go right now. They said they wanted to go to Calgary."

When asked about the opinions which don't appear in the statement, Malanowich said Williams may have said those things after he finished writing the statement.

"You get that gut feeling when you interview people," he said.

Before going to Edmonton, Malanowich had been briefed by Supt. Jack Wood and detective-sergeants George Reid and Raymond Mackie about the Miller murder investigation and Cadrain's allegation.

Malanowich began his interview with Williams by telling her the seriousness of the rape and murder.

The inquiry also heard Thursday that Saskatoon police sought information about convicted rapist Larry Fisher, after he confessed in Winnipeg to two Saskatoon offences in October 1970.

Retired morality officer Beverly Cressman had investigated a rape in the fall of 1968. It was originally thought to have been committed by the person who killed Miller in January 1969, but that theory was dropped after Milgaard was identified as the prime suspect in the murder.

The rape file was concluded the day Milgaard was charged with murder in June 1969.

Cressman said he concluded the file because there had been no new leads for a long time. He said he didn't know Milgaard was charged the same day.

More than a year later, when Fisher confessed in Winnipeg to two other Saskatoon sexual assaults, Cressman was sent to check out an address where Fisher had lived at the time of Cressman's unsolved rape.

Cressman had heard that Det. Eddy Karst had gone to Winnipeg in connection with Saskatoon rapes.

Fisher lived within two blocks of two rape victims.

Cressman said he assumed that Fisher was charged with the rape. Other Saskatoon police have said they never heard of Fisher until years later.

Cressman said he never told rape victims when their assailants were caught.

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