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Commission of Inquiry into the Wrongful Conviction of David Milgaard

page sixteen

David Milgaard

Larry Fisher to testify at inquiry

Larry Fisher died in prison June 9, 2015

SASKATOON -- A public inquiry is turning to an unlikely source for insight into how the justice system failed David Milgaard -- the man who committed the savage crime.

Larry Fisher is scheduled to appear today at the inquiry examining Mr. Milgaard's wrongful conviction 36 years ago.

"The question is whether or not he was aware of any cover-ups, any conspiracies, which have been alleged at the commission so far," said Brian Beresh, who represents Mr. Fisher.

"He's looking forward to getting this over with and moving on with his life."

Murder victim Gail Miller

Nursing assistant Gail Miller is found dead in an alley, stabbed fourteen times with a paring knife

Saskatchewan authorities first trained their attention on Mr. Fisher eight months after Mr. Milgaard was sentenced in 1970, at the age of 17, to life imprisonment for the rape and murder of Gail Miller (right), a 20-year-old nursing aide.

Mr. Milgaard always vehemently maintained that he was innocent. However, he languished in prison for 23 years before justice officials conceded they had punished the wrong man.

In 1999, seven years after Mr. Milgaard was released, Mr. Fisher, a convicted serial rapist who by then had spent most of his adult life in jail, was found guilty of the Miller murder.

Mr. Fisher says he had nothing to do with the crime, but Mr. Beresh said the guilt or innocence of the 56-year-old native of North Battleford, Sask., is irrelevant at the inquiry.

Mr. Fisher's testimony is scheduled to last until Wednesday.

The Milgaard family has long maintained that knowledge of Mr. Fisher and his criminal past was suppressed or ignored by Saskatchewan justice officials in order to keep Mr. Milgaard behind bars.

Ms. Miller was on her way to work on Jan. 31, 1969, when she was pulled into an alley, raped and murdered.

Her partially clad body was found face down in a snowbank. She had been stabbed and slashed more than two dozen times.

Shortly after the killing, Saskatoon police told the public they suspected it was the work of a rapist who had struck in the same area where the murder had taken place. (Mr. Fisher was convicted of those rapes in 1971.)

But in 1969, as the homicide case began to turn cold, the officers' focus turned to Mr. Milgaard. He was a 16-year-old hippie who had been passing through Saskatoon the day Ms. Miller was killed.

In 1970, based on unreliable witnesses and forensic work, he was sent to jail.

The public inquiry, which started in January and was supposed to finish in the spring, has seen its projected budget balloon from $2-million to $7.7-million.

Mr. Justice Edward MacCallum, who is heading the inquiry, cannot assign civil or criminal blame, but will be able to table recommendations intended to ensure similar mistakes never occur.

It is also expected to be the final word on why justice officials failed Mr. Milgaard.

While Mr. Milgaard is expected to testify as early as January, he has not attended the proceedings. His lawyer, Hersh Wolch, has said he is interested in the outcome, but doesn't want to relive the experience by attending.

Every horrible moment of the 36-year-old case is being torn apart and carefully studied.

Before the inquiry wraps up, likely in March, about 200 witnesses will have testified and more than 320,000 pages of documents reviewed.

At times, the hearing has been unbearable for Mr. Milgaard's mother, Joyce, who has attended several days of the proceedings. She fought for years to free her son.

She wept when a retired Saskatoon police detective, who helped lead the murder investigation, said he felt sorry for Mr. Milgaard, but the teenager's conviction was not his fault.

"I did nothing wrong in my opinion and I don't feel I have anything to apologize for," Eddie Karst told the inquiry last month.

Mr. Karst said later that he could not explain why he never acted on information the force received in 1980 from Mr. Fisher's ex-wife. She had told police of suspicions that the former construction worker raped and killed Ms. Miller.

The inquiry, however, has also been an opportunity for Ms. Milgaard to hear from people who helped move her son's case forward.

Recently, she thanked and hugged Bruce Lafreniere, the once anonymous source who called Mr. Milgaard's lawyer in 1990 with information about Mr. Fisher's past. Mr. Lafreniere, whose identity was unearthed by the RCMP, is a former friend of Mr. Fisher.

Until then, the Milgaards had never heard the name Larry Fisher. The clue proved invaluable.

Within two years of Mr. Lafreniere's call, the Supreme Court of Canada overturned Mr. Milgaard's conviction and he was set free at the age of 39.

It would take another five years until DNA evidence taken from Ms. Miller's underclothes exonerated Mr. Milgaard.

That same evidence was used to convict Mr. Fisher in 1999. Later that year, the Saskatchewan government awarded Mr. Milgaard $10-million in compensation .

Doug Hodson, the commission's lawyer, said the list of witnesses has not been finalized, but there is a possibility former federal justice minister Kim Campbell and former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow could be called to appear. Mr. Romanow was the province's attorney-general in the 1970s.

There had been speculation that former prime minister Brian Mulroney may also be asked to appear, but Mr. Hodson said that is highly unlikely now.

Fisher defiant: Serial rapist can't recall day of killing

Larry Fisher maintained Monday that he didn't kill Gail Miller and didn't learn for 11 years that David Milgaard had been convicted of the crime.

Larry Fisher

Larry Fisher, RCMP snitch and serial rapist killed Gail Miller in 1969

Thirty-five years to the day since Fisher's first spree of sexual assaults ended after he was caught in Winnipeg raping his sixth victim, the silver-haired convict denied the crime, but gave telling contradictions in his evidence to the commission of inquiry into Milgaard's wrongful conviction.

Fisher, 56, was convicted with DNA evidence in 1999 that had exonerated Milgaard, who had served 23 years in prison for raping and stabbing to death the 20-year-old nursing assistant on a bitterly cold morning on Jan. 31, 1969.

He was asked directly by inquiry lawyer Doug Hodson about whether he raped and then stabbed Miller to death.

"No, I did not," Fisher replied, in a hushed, barely audible tone.

Fisher also gave a qualified denial when asked if Saskatoon police questioned him about Miller's death when they met with him in Winnipeg in 1970 after he admitted to two Saskatoon sexual assaults.

After a deep breath and a head shake, Fisher said, "Not that I know of."

Fisher said he has no memory of the day of the murder but later said he did remember an argument with his wife, in which she accused him of committing the murder.

Fisher's ex-wife, Linda Fisher, told the RCMP in 1990 that her accusation was prompted by a radio news report about the murder the morning it happened. She said the pair of them were arguing because Fisher had stayed out all night.

When the news of the murder came on the radio, she had flung the accusation at her husband without really believing he had done it, but she was surprised by his silent reaction. "He seemed guilty," Linda Fisher told the RCMP in 1990.

Sitting forward with his hands clasped and his forearms resting calmly on the table before him, Fisher said he doesn't remember the news report.

Though he doesn't remember the day, he is certain he went to work.

(Linda Fisher also told the RCMP her favourite wooden-handled paring knife with a serrated blade was missing. The murder weapon was a plastic-handled paring knife with a smooth blade. Years later Linda Fisher said she was missing one like that, too, but had forgotten about it until she saw a photograph of the murder weapon. Larry Fisher acknowledged Monday they had owned a plastic-handled paring knife.)

Larry Fisher also told the inquiry he didn't know about the Friday murder until the Monday after, when Saskatoon police questioned him at the bus stop where he and Miller regularly caught the 6:49 a.m. bus.

In the months before the murder, Fisher, a construction worker, had raped a 17-year-old and a 22-year-old in the same neighbourhood and had been scared off in during an attempted rape near the university campus where he worked.

Despite his current admission of those offences, Fisher told the inquiry he wasn't particularly concerned when two police officers questioned him at the bus stop.

Fisher slipped through the police dragnet, despite another bus rider's recollection of a man with a yellow hard hat who got on the bus at that stop, along with the nurse.

The yellow hard hat had also been mentioned in the statement of one of the previous rape victims.

The police appear to have been diverted by the bus driver, who told police a man with a red hard hat often rode on the bus. That lead threw suspicion on another man who wore a red hunting cap and who was later eliminated as a suspect.

There was a hiatus in Fisher's attacks after the murder.

His next recorded rape occurred Feb. 21, 1970, three weeks after Milgaard was convicted of Miller's murder.

That summer, Fisher moved to Winnipeg, where he raped a young woman on Aug. 2.

On Aug. 19, 1970, Fisher was finally caught. His sixth victim had screamed when he grabbed her and forced her into an alley, as was his habit. A man who lived in the area, heard the disturbance and called the police, who responded quickly.

Fisher's pants were around his ankles when he heard a car approaching and attempted to flee. Police chased Fisher on foot, then went back to find the woman they'd heard crying in the bushes as the chase began. She told the police her assailant had dropped a knife, which they found. It turned out to be a kitchen paring knife.

Within days, Fisher admitted the two Winnipeg rapes, along with one Saskatoon rape and the attempted rape.

Two Saskatoon police officers went to Winnipeg to take statements about the crimes. They questioned him about the other rapes but he doesn't remember if they mentioned the murder to him.

Fisher said Monday his eagerness admit the truth was fueled partly by a desire to be moved out of the jail where he was being held and where he said he was beaten by the guards.

"I was thrown into the strip cell . . . handcuffed, leg-ironed to the floor, no clothes, nothing," Fisher said. "Then I was beaten on the back of the legs, in the back with a club while I was shaving."

But Fisher appeared to contradict himself later, saying he would have confessed to the crimes anyway.

He said he had wanted to turn himself in before he was arrested. He'd stood outside a Winnipeg police station and considered going in but was "scared shitless."

The hearing would have been Fisher's first opportunity to admit the crime since he was convicted in 1999 and sentenced to life in prison.

Joyce Milgaard, David's mother, said outside the hearings, she no longer fears Fisher and thinks he is pathetic.

"I went in there very frightened. He frightened me so much at the Supreme Court of Canada. After being in there for a very few minutes, I suddenly lost my fear of him and I just thought he was pathetic.

"I didn't see the venom. I didn't see the hate," she said.

"I feel stronger now. I'll be sitting there with my tongue in cheek while he sits there and says he didn't do it.

"The fact is he did it. David didn't. It doesn't matter what he says up there, he's guilty. Knowing that, that frees me. That's why in a sense I did feel sorry for him," Milgaard said.

"He does seem so pathetic."

Fisher returns to the stand today.

Fisher remains as stubborn as he is evil

Never mind, for a moment, the misguided police and prosecutors. More than them, more than anyone else, it's Larry Fisher who's responsible for the wrongful conviction of David Milgaard.

It was Fisher's wickedness that set in motion the runaway train that would later roll over Milgaard.

It was Fisher who remained silent for more than 20 years while an innocent man languished in prison. It was Fisher, and only Fisher, who knew the truth when no one else did.

Monday at the Milgaard inquiry, Fisher for the first time was asked under oath to explain himself. He responded with pathetic denials. In spite of damning evidence to the contrary (including his DNA all over the crime scene, just for starters), in spite of a chance to impress future parole boards by coming clean, in spite of an opportunity to do the right thing for once in his rotten life, Fisher insisted he had nothing to do with the 1969 rape and murder of Gail Miller.

He's as stubborn as he is evil.

Unfortunately, he will not be aggressively cross-examined, at least not in this venue. There's no need, explained inquiry counsel Doug Hodson.

Fisher has been duly tried and convicted. The inquiry accepts his guilt as established. That Fisher claims otherwise only undermines the credibility of anything else he says.

Not that he was very credible to begin with. After brutalizing too many women to mention here, Fisher has spent more than 30 of his 56 years in prison. He's now got 19 years left, at least, on his life sentence for the Miller murder.

Fisher could in theory reduce that by 10 years through the so-called faint-hope provision for early parole.

Given his apparent remorselessness, however, the very slim chance of that ever happening is all but eliminated.

Fisher is serving his time in a medium-security prison in Agassiz, B.C. It shows. He's not as pale as you'd expect of a lifer in maximum security. Dressed as he was in a T-shirt and denim jacket, Fisher looked more like an ordinary working stiff than a convicted sex murderer.

It helped that he was spared the shackles and leg irons that dangerous prisoners are sometimes made to wear when they testify in court.

From all indications, he is not considered dangerous. His guard consists of just one RCMP officer.

This would suggest that he's better behaved as a prisoner than he was on the outside.

Fisher reveals no visible hint of the malevolence concealed within. Short and stocky, with white hair and dark, caterpillar eyebrows over metal-frame eyeglasses and a prominent nose, he does not appear the least bit scary. His victims know better.

Fisher wasted no words on Monday. If you discount the bare-faced lies, he's a co-operative witness, but one who volunteers almost nothing. This would make it easier for him to keep track of his lies. For example, he claims he wasn't worried a few days after the murder when canvassing police questioned him at a west side bus stop where he and Miller habitually caught the same bus. But he previously assaulted at least three other women in the neighbourhood. These are crimes he would later admit to. Even if he hadn't killed Miller, he must have been worried about any attention from police. For him to say otherwise is simply unbelievable.

Fisher's appearance at the inquiry illustrates how frustratingly close police came to catching him almost immediately. When they questioned him as part of the neighbourhood canvass for witnesses, he was wearing a yellow hard hat.

This was presumably the same hard hat described by at least one of his previous victims. For reasons that have never been explained, the connection eluded police. This even though they believed that the cases might be connected.

Had they only followed up, they would have learned that Fisher lied about his alibi, that his behaviour around the time of the murder was highly suspicious and that he was suspected of murder even by his own wife.

Speaking of whom, Fisher's suspicious wife was also overlooked in the police canvass, even though they lived just two blocks from the murder scene. Years later, when she went to police with her suspicions, they blew her off.

It was not until 1997 that Fisher was finally implicated by ever-improving DNA analysis. Even so, Saskatoon police let him leave town.

No thanks to them, he was arrested a week later in Calgary. This is not for Fisher to explain.

Fisher sticks with denial
Milgaard lawyer lays out theory of Miller murder

Sparks flew at the David Milgaard wrongful conviction inquiry Tuesday when convicted killer and serial rapist Larry Fisher took a defiant tone in response to questions from Milgaard's lawyer.

"I'm not going to get technical about dates," Fisher said with a tone of irritation in his voice as Hersh Wolch quizzed him on why, when questioned by Saskatoon police in Winnipeg in 1970, he admitted committing two sexual assaults in Saskatoon but denied two.

Fisher maintained he never lied because he eventually pleaded guilty to all four offences.

"I'm not going to get into little psychological games," Fisher said with an air of dismissal.

"I didn't lie to them. I just didn't tell them," he insisted.

Wolch was trying to find out how it was that Fisher pleaded guilty to four serious offences in Saskatoon but received an unexpectedly lenient sentence.

Fisher received no additional time beyond the 13 years he was already serving for two rapes in Winnipeg.

At sentencing in Regina in 1971 on the Saskatoon offences, Fisher was given four years on each of the three rapes and six months on one attempted rape, but all were to be served concurrent to the Winnipeg term.

Neither Fisher nor his lawyer of the day, Lawrence Greenberg, say they know why Saskatchewan justice officials agreed to the sentence.

Both said Fisher always said he wanted to plead guilty to all of the charges. Fisher has said he wasn't particularly concerned about the sentence but was waiting to see what term he would get.

Fisher wrote to his wife that he expected to receive a stiff sentence for the Saskatoon crimes.

As well, the Manitoba prosecutor who dealt with Fisher on two Winnipeg rapes had written to Saskatchewan justice authorities informing them the Winnipeg judge had not considered the outstanding Saskatoon rape charges when he sentenced Fisher to 13 years.

Milgaard's supporters have alleged Saskatchewan justice authorities wanted the Fisher convictions kept quiet to avoid raising questions about his possible role in the death of Gail Miller on Jan. 31, 1969.

Milgaard was convicted of first-degree murder in the Miller case in 1970. He spent 23 years in prison before he was released in 1992. DNA evidence was used to prove his innocence in 1997 and to convict Fisher in 1999. Fisher was sentenced to life in prison.

Milgaard's lawyer did not find out about Fisher and the similarity of his rapes to the Miller killing for 19 years, when an old friend of Fisher's notified Milgaard's lawyer about Fisher's ex-wife's suspicion of him as the murderer.

"The Crown was asking for no time," Wolch said to Fisher, seeking an explanation.

Fisher said he didn't know why he received the light sentence.

"I could have expected a life bid on any of them," Fisher said.

"That was thanks to them sending me to Regina," he said, but could offer no further explanation.

Wolch also pressed Fisher for his movements on the morning he raped and killed Miller.

Wolch suggested Fisher borrowed his wife's uncle's car and parked outside Miller's rooming house. When Miller set out walking to the bus stop one block away, Fisher moved the car to a nearby alley, then grabbed Miller and dragged her to the car, Wolch suggested. Fisher had her undress to the waist, then covered her face with her sweater and raped her on her coat, he said.

Miller was leaving with her coat, but not her dress top, back on, when she saw Fisher's face, Wolch suggested.

"That's why you killed her. She knew you as the guy from the bus," Wolch said.

"She saw. You chased. You stabbed," Wolch insisted.

"No. I'm just saying I didn't do it," Fisher said.

Wolch continued to lay out his theory of Fisher's movements after the rape, suggesting Fisher, "or someone with (Fisher's) DNA," returned a borrowed car to its owner and walked back home, stopping to grope a university student he met along the way.

Wolch suggested that Fisher went home, where his wife accused him of the killing, which was broadcast on the radio news, and that Fisher left to go to work and get away from his wife.

As he walked to the bus, Fisher saw police in the area and decided to get rid of evidence he was carrying, Wolch suggested.

"You realized you had the victim's wallet and you hid it in the snowbank on your way back to the bus stop," Wolch said.

"It's a good story, you should stick to it," Fisher responded.

"I am," Wolch retorted.

"That's good because I'm not going to believe anything you say like that. It didn't happen," Fisher shot back.

Fisher said he feels no remorse because he didn't commit the crime.

Fisher's lawyer, Brian Beresh, took issue with Wolch's questions, saying, "these are not truth and reconciliation hearings."

Inquiry commissioner Justice Edward MacCallum agreed that feelings of remorse or apologies to injured parties are not within the commission's mandate.

Fisher may call for public inquiry of his conviction

Larry Fisher wants the same as David Milgaard -- a wrongful conviction inquiry to look into his conviction for the rape and murder of Gail Miller.

Brian Beresh, Fisher's lawyer, said in an interview Fisher is in an "absolutely identical situation" as Milgaard was after his wrongful 1970 conviction for the same crime.

"(Fisher) said to me a few moments ago that he himself may call for a public inquiry about his conviction," Beresh said, adding he will look at testimony from the Milgaard inquiry carefully.

"There's now new evidence that is strikingly inconsistent with what was said at (Fisher's 1999) trial. It causes me concern about his conviction," Beresh said after Fisher finished testifying at the inquiry Wednesday.

Beresh wouldn't say what new evidence he was referring to beyond noting some people's observations and the names of other suspects from 1969 were not disclosed to the defence at Fisher's trial because they were considered "not disclosable or not relevant" by the prosecution.

He said the information arose out of the RCMP's 1993 investigation into Milgaard's allegation of wrongdoing by police and justice officials after his conviction was quashed by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1992.

Beresh contends the DNA evidence used to convict Fisher of murder was circumstantial, whereas Milgaard was convicted on the strength of direct, eyewitness evidence.

Milgaard's mother, Joyce, called Fisher's suggestion "ridiculous," and said it shows Fisher didn't take the inquiry seriously.

"With the DNA evidence and everything that's out on the table, it's a joke. A bad joke," she said.

"I guess I had that hope (of a confession) in my heart. . . . I knew realistically that it wouldn't happen, but you know, mothers sort of dream.

"It would have been really good for David if it had, because you know it's been a long haul for him."

Hersh Wolch, David Milgaard's lawyer, said if Fisher wants a wrongful conviction inquiry, he should get in line behind notorious sex killers Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka.

"We're dealing with a rapist killer. What do you expect? . . . He just came across as what he is. You can't place anything on what he says.

"What he had to add was almost zero, I think, but it was important to have him for completeness, to give us a sense of it," Wolch said.

The inquiry also heard Wednesday from two uncles and an aunt of Linda Fisher, Larry Fisher's ex-wife.

Cliff Pambrun said he sometimes lent Fisher his car, though he can't remember Fisher ever having it overnight or early in the morning when Pambrun would have needed it to get to work.

Pambrun's wife, Anita, said Linda Fisher told her sometime after Fisher was imprisoned for five rapes and an indecent assault that she had accused him of killing the nurse, and that his face had gone pale.

Anita Pambrun also was aware Linda had gone to Saskatoon police in 1980 to tell them she suspected Fisher was the real killer of Miller. Saskatoon police never acted on the information.

Roy Pambrun, Cliff's brother, recounted a incident that he thinks might have occurred the day Miller was killed.

Pambrun said Fisher showed up on his doorstep around 8 a.m. on a cold and windy winter morning without shoes or a coat and asking to borrow some. Fisher said his shoes and coat had been stolen from a party, Pambrun said.

He said Fisher had lit a fire in the burning barrel in the back alley and had explained it by saying no one had answered Roy's door when Fisher first knocked, so he had lit the fire to warm up. Roy Pambrun said he didn't check the barrel to see what Fisher had burned.

Beresh attacked the story, pointing out that Pambrun admits he didn't like Fisher and saying, "repeating it again doesn't make it true."

Documents presented at the inquiry show Linda Fisher told a different version of the story to Joyce Milgaard in 1990.

Linda said Roy was burning garbage and Larry Fisher tossed in a pair of good work boots.

Wolch's theory of Fisher's actions the morning of Miller's death does not include a visit to Roy Pambrun's house, which was on Grey Place, a cul-de-sac off Idylwyld Drive, three blocks north of 33rd Street.

The scene of the killing and Fisher's residence were about three kilometres away, around 20th Street and Avenue O.

A woman who may have been groped by Fisher that morning was at Avenue F near 20th, and Cliff Pambrun's residence was at Avenue C near 24th Street.

Wolch has said he thinks Fisher used Cliff Pambrun's car and returned to the Avenue C residence after the murder.

Ex-wife suspected Fisher
Took concerns to police station, inquiry hears

Larry Fisher's ex-wife confronted him within two years of Gail Miller's 1969 murder with her suspicion that he was the real killer.

Linda Fisher told the David Milgaard wrongful conviction inquiry Monday that the suspicion was also fueled by the fact her paring knife had gone missing around the time of the murder, and Fisher's shocked reaction to her off-handed and angry accusation during an argument on the day of Miller's murder that he might be the killer.

Fisher denied killing Miller when Linda Fisher asked him about it during a visit at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary in 1971, after he pleaded guilty to raping women in Winnipeg.

Linda Fisher thinks that conversation happened before Fisher pleaded guilty in Regina to four Saskatoon sexual assaults.

The suspicion continued to bother Linda Fisher throughout the 1970s and she sometimes talked to extended fam-ily members about it, she said.

Family members thought Milgaard would not have been convicted unless there was "serious evidence" against him, she said.

"Most people thought the court wouldn't make a mistake. That was the basic reason (why she didn't go to authorities then)," Linda Fisher said.

Milgaard spent 23 years in prison before he was released in 1992. DNA evidence was used to prove his innocence in 1997 and to convict serial rapist Larry Fisher in 1999. The commission of inquiry is looking into the murder investigation, the prosecution of Milgaard and whether the case should have been reopened as new information came to light.

Linda Fisher was moved to action in August 1980 after Fisher was charged with attempted murder and rape in North Battleford while out on parole, and just days after Milgaard escaped from custody.

By then, Linda Fisher was aware that Milgaard was protesting his innocence and her old suspicion was bolstered by Fisher's new charge.

Linda Fisher went into the Saskatoon police station and gave the inspector a statement, fully expecting to be more closely questioned in the days ahead.

Saskatoon police never called.

Linda Fisher also told the inquiry Monday that Fisher told her, before his 1980 release, that he had not received treatment while in prison and that he thought he might re-offend when he got out. Linda Fisher said she told correctional or parole officials who came to visit her what Fisher had said.

A corrections document presented to the inquiry shows Linda Fisher did tell them she thought the escalating violence of Fisher's crimes indicated he might kill someone next time.

The document did not say anything about Linda Fisher suspecting her husband had already killed someone.

Linda Fisher also told the inquiry she once saw her husband washing his hunting coveralls during the year they lived in a basement suite of the Cadrain house. It was unusual because Fisher normally never did laundry, she said.

Linda Fisher said in the 1980 police statement that Saskatoon police never questioned her about the murder, but she recalled Monday that an officer spoke to her at the door within a week of the murder, asking if she had observed anything unusual on the day of the murder.

She said she must have forgotten that when she gave the police statement.

Inquiry hears Joyce Milgaard, Linda Fisher exchange

The Milgaard inquiry on Tuesday glimpsed the dramatic moment in 1990 when, after a decade of searching, Joyce Milgaard finally learned important information pertaining to Larry Fisher the day Gail Miller was killed.

The inquiry reviewed transcripts of tape recordings Milgaard made of her March 1990 meetings with Fisher's ex-wife, Linda Fisher.

Milgaard had tracked Linda Fisher to her home in a small town near North Battleford after an anonymous caller had tipped off David Milgaard's lawyer that Fisher, a serial rapist, had lived in the basement of the house Milgaard had visited the day of Miller's death.

The caller said Linda Fisher thought her ex-husband had killed Miller because he had blood on his clothes the day of the killing.

On March 9, 1990, Joyce Milgaard and private investigator Paul Henderson sat with Linda Fisher as she expressed surprise that it had taken them so long to come and see her.

"I gave everything I had to the . . . in that statement," Linda Fisher said.

"What statement? Did you give a statement to the Saskatoon police? When was that?" Joyce Milgaard asked.

"Ten years ago," Linda Fisher replied.

The inquiry has heard that Fisher's 1980 statement to Saskatoon police, in which she said why she suspected her husband was Miller's real killer, was filed and never acted upon.

Fisher gave the statement around the time Joyce Milgaard made a public plea for information that would help exonerate her son, who was convicted in 1970 of first-degree murder in Miller's death. David Milgaard was released in 1992. DNA evidence was used to prove his innocence in 1997 and to convict Larry Fisher in 1999.

In the transcript presented to the inquiry into Milgaard's wrongful conviction, Linda Fisher recounted an incident in which she awoke one morning and was surprised to find her husband home instead of at work.

He was wearing his dress clothes instead of his work clothes.

Contrary to the anonymous tip, Linda Fisher said she never saw blood on Larry Fisher's clothing.

Joyce Milgaard eventually learned that a girl in the house where the Fishers lived had told friends she saw a pile of bloody clothes in the basement.

Linda Fisher said the couple fought about Larry Fisher not coming home the night before. In the course of the argument, a news report of Miller's death came on the radio and Linda Fisher hurled an angry, offhand accusation at her husband.

"I said you were probably the one that did it and his face just turned pale and white . . . "

"You're kidding," Milgaard responded.

"He just looked so guilty. Like I never forgot that look," Fisher said.

As the conversation continued, Linda said she was angry at Larry.

"Because you were mad and unwittingly you think you maybe hit the truth?" Joyce Milgaard said.

"Also my paring knife is missing," Fisher said.

"Your paring knife is missing?" Milgaard asked.

"Oh, oh, oh, oh," Henderson said.

"Wow," Milgaard said.

In the months that followed, Linda maintained the missing knife had a wooden handle.

When she saw the actual, maroon, plastic-handled murder weapon at Fisher's 1999 trial she recognized it as a different one she had forgotten about.

She said she and Fisher had bought it at an OK Economy store in 1968.

She told the inquiry her mother later gave her the better, wooden-handled knife, and when it went missing she didn't bother to look for the plastic-handled knife because she didn't like using it.

A knife with a wooden handle, which matched the description of the first missing knife, was found at the scene of a Winnipeg rape when Fisher was caught there in the fall of 1970.

Linda Fisher also recalled a third missing knife, a bone-handled butcher knife from a set she and Larry had received as a wedding gift.

Linda Fisher said she did not believe, during the accusatory 1969 argument, that her husband really had killed anybody, but interpreted his reaction as shock that he thought she believed it.

After Fisher was convicted of two Winnipeg rapes in 1971, Linda Fisher remembered the argument and began to suspect her husband in Miller's death.

In cross-examination by Richard Elson, lawyer for the Saskatoon police, Fisher acknowledged her description of her missing knife was "not even close" to the plastic-handled murder weapon, just as former detective Jack Parker had commented to another officer who asked him about Linda Fisher's 1980 statement.

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