injusticebusters logo

Larry Fisher died in prison June 9, 2015

Larry Fisher killed Gail Miller

Are RCMP protecting their snitch?

Larry Fisher

RCMP snitch Larry Fisher - Licence to lie

Two women who were raped in North Battleford were told their rapist had been caught -- and it was David Milgaard.

Larry Fisher was the real culprit and in custody in Regina. The practice of giving snitches licence to lie is standard practice for the RCMP who enlist the cooperation of local police.

This licence includes rape and murder.

Larry Fisher testifies at Milgaard Inquiry

BELOW: The Trial of Larry Fisher


Larry Fisher loses murder conviction appeal in Saskatoon nursing aide's death

Gail Miller murder victim

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

REGINA (CP) - The man who was eventually found guilty of a murder that kept David Milgaard wrongfully imprisoned for 23 years lost an appeal Monday to have his conviction overturned.

Larry Fisher was convicted in 1999 of the first-degree murder of Gail Miller, a 20-year-old Saskatoon nursing assistant who had been raped and repeatedly stabbed 30 years earlier. Milgaard, a 16-year-old hippie who was passing through Saskatoon at the time, was convicted of Miller's death and spent his young adulthood behind bars before finally being exonerated by DNA evidence in 1997.

Fisher was given a mandatory life sentence, but will be eligible for parole in 10 years instead of the usual 25 years according to the law that was in place when Miller was killed.

The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal ruled unanimously that his conviction should stand.

Milgaard's mother, Joyce Milgaard, who worked tirelessly to prove her son's innocence, welcomed the news. She said David was also relieved.

"He's just wanting to get on and live his life," Milgaard said. "We talked about it last night and he said he couldn't see that it could be anything else."

Fisher's lawyer, Brian Beresh, had argued that his client's trial was flawed by inadmissible evidence and the presiding judge's poor submission to the jury.

He also contended that statements the trial judge made about Milgaard led the jury to disregard the idea that he could still be guilty.

But the appeal court said the judge did not err when he decided to admit fact and DNA evidence, as well as evidence from certain witnesses.

"Further, the judge did not err in any of his instructions to the jury," the appeal court wrote.

Miller's bloody and partially clad body was found in a Saskatoon alley on Jan. 31, 1969. Her throat was slashed, she had been stabbed 27 times and she had been raped.

DNA evidence was at the heart of the Crown's case against Fisher. Semen stains were left on Miller's dress and underwear and blood consistent with Fisher's DNA was also found on Miller's glove.

Court heard the odds were 950 trillion to one that the semen did not belong to Fisher.

But in front of the appeal court, Beresh argued the expert who gave that number was not qualified to do so and the judge should have pointed that out to the jury.

He said the expert arrived at the number by plugging figures into a database and was not able to answer questions about how the computer program worked.

The Saskatchewan government awarded Milgaard $10 million for his wrongful conviction - the biggest criminal compensation package in Canadian history.

The government also plans a public inquiry into Milgaard's case, but the proceedings were being held up by Fisher's appeal. Saskatchewan Justice Minister Eric Cline was not immediately available to comment on when the inquiry might go ahead.

But Joyce Milgaard said the family is anxious for it to proceed.

"We certainly would like to get that underway as soon as possible," she said. "Hopefully, they won't be dragging their feet on it."

The legal bills for Fisher's defence have climbed into the hundreds of thousand of dollars.

The case has prompted what criminal defence lawyers call Fisher applications - motions seeking fair compensation for lawyers involved in high-profile sexual assault, murder and attempted murder cases.

A sketch of Larry Fisher, who has lost an appeal of his first-degree conviction in the 1969 death of Saskatoon nursing aide Gail Miller:

Born: Aug. 21, 1949.

Convictions: Served 23 years in prison for a series of brutal rapes in Winnipeg, Saskatoon and North Battleford.

Arrested: July 25, 1997, in Calgary and charged with 1969 rape and murder of Gail Miller.

Background: In 1969, Fisher was married and employed as a construction worker. Before his arrest, he made money collecting bottles and cans from dumpsters around Saskatoon.

Defence: Fisher's lawyer disputed DNA evidence, arguing it was accidentally or deliberately planted on Miller's clothing after she was killed.

Appeal: The defence argued 10 grounds, including that the trial judge erred in instructing the jury not to consider the conviction of David Milgaard.


The personal viewpoint of Rusty Chartier moved to it own page


The trial of Larry Fisher

This summarizes the case:

THIS PAGE:
DNA proves Fisher guilty
Fisher's defence on attack
Miller's body dumped?
Lawyer tries to implicate Milgaard
Police bungled investigation
Witnesses recount hours surrounding death
Weapon used to kill Miller discovered

NEXT PAGE:
Trial slowed by more legal skirmishes
Early DNA test failed to implicate Fisher
Fisher's victims describe horrifying attacks
Ex-wife suspected him of murder
Milgaard's semen not on dress
DNA expert links Fisher to murdered woman
Crown rebuts implication Milgaard stabbed Miller
Lid put on Fisher evidence


Notorious case prompts unprecedented scrutiny of jury

Fisher Larry

YORKTON, SK -When the seven men and five women selected to try Larry Fisher begin hearing evidence, the accused murderer and rapist will have the most scrutinized jury in Canadian legal history, according to Brian Beresh, his lawyer.

Potential jurors were yesterday grilled to an "unprecedented" degree about their suitability to judge based on the facts presented in the trial rather than through the massive publicity the 30-year-old case has engendered.

Mr. Fisher, 50, is on trial for raping and killing Saskatoon nursing aide Gail Miller in January, 1969, the crimes for which David Milgaard wrongfully served 23 years in prison before being exonerated by DNA evidence.

Mr. Milgaard's high-profile fight to prove his innocence has made headlines for more than a decade, and Mr. Fisher's arrest in 1997 similarly captured media attention. In April, to increase the chances of finding impartial jurors, the trial was relocated from Saskatoon to Yorkton, a farming community of 15,000 people near the Yellowhead Highway 200 kilometres east of Regina.

Yesterday, each potential juror was asked seven questions by Mr. Beresh, the most detailed examination that has ever occurred in a Canadian courtroom. "It's the first time in Canada that seven questions have been allowed," he said.

Jurors were asked whether they had heard of the case, whether they had formed an opinion about Mr. Fisher's guilt or innocence, and whether, based on all the publicity, if they could judge the case solely on the evidence presented during the trial.

Several jurors conceded they could not judge Mr. Fisher impartially, and numerous others revealed they were familiar with the case because of Mr. Milgaard and other media scrutiny.

The questions were part of a rarely used process called "challenge of cause," where the first two jurors selected determine whether new potential jurors are acceptable, and, as each new juror is selected, he or she takes a turn selecting other jurors. Crown and defence lawyers can then veto the decision of the jurors up to 20 times. Jurors were selected from a pool of 85 candidates, of which 36 were questioned.

Challenge of cause procedures are most commonly used in cases where racial bias may be an issue, Mr. Beresh said, adding that in "99% of cases, jurors aren't asked a single question."

Before entering the courtroom to apply for the challenge for cause, Mr. Beresh said all jurors must be able to disregard all they've seen, read or heard on the case. "If they can't, then maybe they shouldn't sit as jurors. That's not a reflection on the individual; we all form opinions and we all have biases. The last thing that any juror wants to do is to sit on a case where they have preconceived notions. The last thing we want is for that to happen. There has been a lot of publicity about this case, we all know that, and what everyone wants is a fair case."

Mr. Fisher sat quietly throughout the session. He appeared relaxed, joking occasionally with the body-armoured RCMP officers who brought him, handcuffed, into the courtroom.

Speaking softly, he pleaded not guilty to the charges when asked by Court of Queen's Bench Judge Gerry Allbright.

The jurors selected will have to hear evidence recalled over the span of a generation, with witnesses travelling from the United States and England. Among 39 witnesses scheduled to testify for the Crown are Mr. Fisher's ex-wife, the pathologist who first examined Ms. Miller's body, the original investigating officers and the bus driver who once drove Ms. Miller to her job in the paediatric ward at Saskatoon City Hospital.


DNA proves Fisher guilty, Crown tells murder trial

YORKTON, SASK. - The Crown says it has overwhelming evidence to prove Larry Fisher murdered a nursing aide in Saskatoon 30 years ago: semen samples on Gail Miller's clothing with DNA that closely matches that of Fisher.

They also said evidence will show that Fisher lived two blocks from Miller at the time and that her wallet was found near his home three months after the murder.

On Tuesday, Fisher pleaded not guilty to the sexual assault and murder of Miller, a nursing assistant who was stabbed to death in Saskatoon in 1969.

It took a day to pick a jury of seven men and five women. On Wednesday, lawyers wrangled over legal issues that cannot be reported.

In his opening arguments Thursday, the Crown prosecutor told jurors that the DNA evidence will be a key part of its case against the accused.

Fisher, 50, was charged in 1997 after DNA tests cleared Milgaard, who spent 23 years behind bars for the crime.

Milgaard, now 47, was released in 1992 after years of lobbying by his mother prompted a review of the case by the Supreme Court of Canada. He now lives with his wife in Vancouver, and is not expected to attend Fisher's trial.

The Crown is planning to call as many as 39 witnesses.

Earlier this year, the government of Saskatchewan awarded Milgaard $10 million in compensation-- the biggest settlement of its kind in Canadian history.

The province has also ordered a public inquiry into the case, but it can't begin until Fisher's trial is over.


Fisher's defence on attack,
Beresh contends David Milgaard should still be considered a suspect

YORKTON - Larry Fisher's defence lawyer took direct aim Thursday at David Milgaard, the man first convicted of raping and murdering Gail Miller, crimes for which Fisher now stands accused.

In opening statements at Fisher's murder trial, defence lawyer Brian Beresh named Milgaard about a dozen times.

Beresh pointed out that Milgaard was convicted of raping and murdering Miller in 1970 by a jury in Saskatoon. Two appeals to higher courts were rejected, and he served 22 years.

"After a long trial before a jury selected as you were which deliberated for only 45 minutes, he was convicted of her murder," Beresh said.

Beresh said Milgaard's guilt went unquestioned until 1980, when his mother began her campaign to free him.

"Mrs. Joyce Milgaard offered people money for evidence or information, she harassed people, people changed phone numbers and residences to avoid her harassment," Beresh said.

"She attempted to get people to do things for her, to get (Fisher's former wife) Linda Fisher to wear a wire, a secret microphone while Linda talked to Larry. She tried to get Linda to get a saliva sample from Larry, secretly."

Tainted and lost evidence and shaky science were also attacked by Beresh.

He pointed to a string of scientists in Canada who found nothing to link Fisher or exonerate Milgaard in 1969, 1987 and 1992.

It was only when Miller's clothing was sent to England in 1997 after sitting in the Saskatoon courthouse for 26 years that Fisher's DNA was allegedly found and Milgaard supposedly exonerated, he pointed out.

Many exhibits have been lost or destroyed, along with the notes and samples kept by a battery of scientists over the years.

The exhibits that survived sat for years unattended and unsealed in the basement of the Court of Queen's Bench in Saskatoon, Beresh said. The courthouse was broken into on several occasions, including a string of thefts in 1992, the year Milgaard was released from prison, when someone could have tampered with the evidence, he said.

"Some witnesses have died or disappeared, some evidence has been destroyed or altered. The evidence we do have was kept in an unsterile, unprotected manner. We don't have all the tools we'd like to have," Beresh said.

Doreen Dahlen, Miller's sister, looked on impassively from the gallery where she sat with her husband.

Just before Beresh outlined his defence, Crown prosecutor Dean Sinclair outlined the case against Fisher.

In a quiet, methodical manner, Sinclair led the jury to the most potentially damaging piece of evidence the Crown intends to call: the same DNA evidence dismissed by Beresh.

Sinclair said Miller's underpants and dress were sent to two English scientists in 1997 for tests far more sophisticated than those available in Canada.

British scientist Michael Barber extracted semen he found on the two articles of clothing. DNA profiler Ann Elizabeth Charland matched it to DNA from a blood sample obtained from Fisher, the Crown lawyer said.

"I expect her to tell you the DNA on the exhibits matches the DNA obtained from Larry Fisher," he said.

"I expect her to tell you the probability of someone other than Larry Fisher depositing that semen or being the donor of that semen is extremely remote."

Sinclair also walked the jury through several pieces of circumstantial evidence the Crown says link Fisher to the crime.

The handle of a paring knife, the suspected murder weapon, and Miller's wallet were found a few houses away from Fisher's residence.

In 1969, Fisher lived one block away from Miller's home on Avenue O South, two blocks from where her body was found, and he often took the same bus to work as Miller, Sinclair said.

Beresh countered by pointing out that a 17-year-old boy named David Milgaard was visiting a friend in a suite in the basement of Fisher's home on the very morning of the murder.

The Crown's case will continue this morning with testimony by police officers and the first civilians to stumble across Miller's body.


Miller's body dumped?
Fisher's lawyer raises theory

YORKTON -- Larry Fisher's lawyer raised the theory Friday that Gail Miller's killer dumped her body from a car into the Saskatoon alley where she was found.

Four witnesses who testified Friday at Fisher's murder trial were the first adults on the scene on Jan. 31, 1969 where Miller's stabbed and raped body was found.

They found Miller face down in deep snow on the edge of the lane behind the 200 block of Avenue O South.

Under cross-examination by Fisher's lawyer, Brian Beresh, those witnesses testified there were only a few small drops of blood on the snow near Miller's stabbed body, even though her white nursing assistant dress had a large red bloodstain on it.

Retired Det. George Reid said there was enough room beside the petite 20-year-old woman's body for a car to drive by.

"So a car could have driven by without touching the body. A car could drive by and toss out the body. This is what you could see," Beresh put to Reid, who agreed.

The witnesses also said they saw no sign that Miller had been dragged into the alley.

Rae Murdock, owner of the Westwood funeral home, lived in an apartment on the top floor of his business. He came to the scene after an 11-year-old girl knocked on her door. Murdock waited near Miller's body for the police to come and shooed away curious school children from the scene.

Murdock and former employee Terry Michayliuk lived in apartments in the same building as the funeral home. Under questioning by Beresh, both men said they heard no screaming or other signs of struggle from their homes.

"I was in the basement, so I wouldn't even hear traffic where I was," Michayliuk said.

Murdock's second-floor window was about 100 feet from where Miller's body was found but he too heard nothing, he said.

Several witnesses said Miller was wearing her coat properly, with the arms through the sleeves, while her dress was pulled down around her waist. The back of the coat had several stab marks while the dress did not.

Through his questioning Crown prosecutor Dean Sinclair pointed out that Miller's hands were clutching snow, indicating she was not dead when she ended up laying in the snow. She also had snow in her tussled hair.

Retired Supt. Thor Kleiv and other witnesses testified that the snow around Miller's body was trampled.

Kleiv said he didn't see any fresh footprints or tire tracks in the alley where Miller was found.

He said the bitter cold that morning, minus 42 on the old Fahrenheit scale, turned the snow into finely crystallized sand.

"If you were to step in it, it wouldn't leave any discernible marks, other than possibly the outline of footmarks," Kleiv said.

Kleiv also found Miller's gloves buried under some snow a short distance away from her body.

While most of the witnesses had difficulty Friday remembering some details from the events 30 years ago, Kleiv's recall was remarkable.

Testifying without the benefit of notes as most police officers usually do, Kleiv gave a detailed account of his work taking pictures of the crime scene and seizing exhibits.

The morning was so cold the shutter on his camera froze after each shot. Taking a few photographs required more than 30 minutes as he thawed out his camera in the warm police van between each shot.

Using old but sharp black and white photographs, Kleiv described the stab wounds on Miller's back and torso, the slash wounds on her neck and the bruises on her lips, cheeks and nose as jurors grimly followed along with their own copies.

The trial resumes on Monday morning.


Lawyer tries to implicate Milgaard:
Defence in murder case aims to rekindle doubt about man who was cleared

YORKTON, SASK. -- Defence lawyers for Larry Fisher tried yesterday to raise doubt about David Milgaard's innocence in the 1969 sex slaying of Gail Miller in Saskatoon, while prosecutors said that scientific evidence points indisputably to Mr. Fisher, the man now charged in the crime.

Mr. Fisher's lawyer, Brian Beresh, told jurors in his opening statement that Mr. Milgaard should not be ruled out as a suspect, and that his mother, Joyce Milgaard, offered inducements to people in an effort to implicate Mr. Fisher.

"You will hear from witnesses who were approached by Joyce Milgaard, offered money, harassed, and who changed their phone numbers and residences to avoid her harassment," Mr. Beresh said.

"She attempted to get people to do things for her. She tried to get Linda Fisher [Mr. Fisher's ex-wife] to wear a wire, a hidden microphone, and to get a saliva sample from Larry."

Mr. Fisher, 50, has pleaded not guilty to charges of rape and first-degree murder. Ms. Miller, a 20-year-old Saskatoon nursing aide, was stabbed to death on the freezing cold morning of Jan. 31, 1969.

In their opening remarks, prosecutors said that DNA tests show that semen on Ms. Miller's clothing matches that of Mr. Fisher.

Both sides opened their cases before a seven-man, five-woman jury chosen from in and around this southeastern Saskatchewan city of 10,000. The trial was moved to Yorkton because heavy pre-trial publicity in Saskatoon might have made it more difficult to find an unbiased jury.

Mr. Milgaard was wrongly convicted of the Miller slaying in 1970. He said he was framed and spent 23 years in prison denying any involvement in the crime.

"You'll hear the evidence that comes out at this trial, and it could be very wide-reaching," Mr. Beresh said outside the grand 80-year-old, stone and brick Yorkton courthouse.

Exhibits and evidence have disappeared in the 30-year-old case, Mr. Beresh told the court. Witnesses have died, and break-ins at the Saskatoon courthouse over the years point to the possibility that someone -- even lawyers -- could have obtained Mr. Fisher's semen and left it on Ms. Miller's clothing, which was kept in open boxes in an exhibit room, he said.

Microscopic semen deposits found on panties and a dress are crucial to the Crown's case against Mr. Fisher.

The Crown said it will show that the results of DNA tests done in Canada by the RCMP demonstrate that no one but Mr. Fisher could have left matching semen stains on Ms. Miller's clothing. Mr. Beresh alleged in court that Mr. Milgaard has not been scientifically excluded as a suspect.

The bloodied, partly clad body of Ms. Miller was found face down in a back lane snowbank on a -42 January morning in 1969. There were at least a dozen stab wounds to her body and slash marks on her throat. She had been stabbed through her coat, but not her dress, which was pulled down below her waist. A broken knife blade, possibly from a paring knife, lay under her body.

Mr. Milgaard, a 16-year-old hippie who had visited Saskatoon for the day, was arrested several months later. He was released from penitentiary in 1992 after years of lobbying led to an unprecedented review by the Supreme Court of Canada. The court overturned the conviction, saying that had jurors known of Mr. Fisher in 1969 they might not have convicted Mr. Milgaard. He was finally cleared in July of 1997, when DNA tests conducted in Britain revealed that semen found at the crime scene did not match Mr. Milgaard's DNA but matched Mr. Fisher's.

Yesterday, the Crown said that beyond the scientific evidence it will show that a trail of belongings -- a knife handle, a boot, gloves and a wallet -- led straight from the alley where Ms. Miller's body was found to the Saskatoon home of Mr. Fisher -- the same house Mr. Milgaard coincidentally visited on the day of the slaying. Mr. Fisher told police he was at work the day of the killing; his ex-wife is expected to testify that he was at home.

DNA tests conducted since Mr. Fisher's 1997 arrest show that "the possibility of anyone other than Larry Fisher depositing that semen . . . is extremely remote," prosecutor Dean Sinclair told jurors.

As to the continuity and safeguarding of the clothing and other exhibits over the years, "the semen found on the garments was not placed there at any time other than at the scene of the crime," Mr. Sinclair said.

The Crown will call 39 witnesses in the case, which is expected to last at least a month.

The defence also will call numerous witnesses, Mr. Beresh said, describing the case as having "historic and significant consequences."

He noted that in Mr. Milgaard's 1970 trial, 45 witnesses testified before jurors returned a guilty verdict that was upheld by the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal.


Saskatoon police bungled Miller investigation: lawyer
Fisher defence depicts careless handling of evidence

YORKTON - A black and white Saskatoon police photo appears to expose sloppy work by the department during the 1969 investigation of Gail Miller's murder, her accused killer's lawyer suggested in court here Monday.

Retired Supt. Thor Kleiv was the identification officer who took photos of the autopsy and seized Miller's clothing. He insisted Miller's clothing was collected and packaged separately to avoid contamination in accordance with proper police procedure.

"They were removed from the body and they were placed in separate bags," he said.

Kleiv's insistence faded as Brian Beresh, Larry Fisher's defence lawyer, produced consecutive autopsy photos, each blown up larger than the previous print.

The enlarged photos show what appears to be Miller's clothing piled in a heap on the floor beneath her blood-soaked autopsy table.

"They were thrown on the floor like a pile of garbage, sir. One on top of the other," Beresh said.

Kleiv replied: "That's what it appears to be on the photograph."

Earlier, Kleiv gave testimony on proper techniques used by identification officers. One of those techniques is to keep wet clothes separate and to dry them to preserve their integrity as evidence.

Beresh suggested Kleiv took away all the exhibits in one garbage bag and waited for a few days until they were dry to store them separately.

"You took them away like Santa Claus at Christmas time," Beresh said. Kleiv said the identification unit had special bags for evidence. He maintained he would have sorted the clothing immediately.

The same exhibits and forensic tests were used to falsely convict David Milgaard of the crime in 1970. He spent 22 years in prison and was exonerated in 1997 when more sophisticated DNA tests ruled him out as a suspect.

Miller's thin black coat with a fake-fur collar and a short-sleeved nurse's dress were seized by Kleiv a few hours after Miller was killed Jan 31, 1969. Her body was found, stabbed and beaten, in an alley on Saskatoon's west side.

Along with Miller's undergarments, the articles of clothing were tendered as exhibits at Fisher's murder trial Monday morning.

Kleiv did not positively identify the garments in the photographs as Miller's, but her autopsy was the only one that took place at St. Paul's Hospital that day. A white bra strap, girdle and fur collar identical to her clothing are all clearly visible in the largest blown-up photo.

Fisher is now charged with the rape and murder of Miller. He is being tried by a Queen's Bench judge and jury.

During the trial, Beresh has said he intends to show the exhibits have been stored carelessly, and have passed through dozens of hands since 1969. They were also exposed to burglars at the Saskatoon courthouse on several occasions.

Kleiv was at Miller's autopsy, held four hours after her body was found. He seized her clothing and blood and hair samples, and took several photographs.

By the time Milgaard went on trial for Miller's rape and murder in 1970, Kleiv had been in charge of most of the exhibits used in the case. That included a knife blade and knife handle which were turned in from near the scene.

Kleiv also was in charge of Miller's purse. The purse contained a well-stocked makeup kit, a chequebook showing a balance of $106 and a package of Rothman's cigarettes.

Outside court, Kleiv said he didn't want to discuss suggestions of police bungling in the case. He spoke about the difficulties involved in remembering details from a 30-year-old case. But, he said, "sometimes you remember what happened 30 years ago easier than what happened last week."

Kleiv said the Miller murder was one of the worst cases he handled in 30 years on the force.

"It was a very stark case, a revelation. It's something that if you saw it, you would never forget it. I feel so bad for people in that kind of situation, where they end up in some back alley cut to pieces. It just doesn't seem right that this should happen to human beings."

Most of Monday's testimony took place without the jury. The Crown and the defence argued over evidence in front of Justice Gerry Allbright.


Witnesses recount hours surrounding Gail Miller's death

YORKTON - The friends who saw Gail Miller last, the woman who, as a schoolgirl, found the body, and the doctor who performed Miller's autopsy testified Tuesday as the Crown continued to reconstruct the hours before and after Miller's death.

After nearly a week of evidence, the Crown's case has not yet pointed to Larry Fisher, the 50-year-old man accused of Gail Miller's rape and murder.

Instead, the Crown has concentrated on setting the scene surrounding Miller's death on Jan. 31, 1969.

The night before Miller was stabbed in a Saskatoon alley, a Thursday evening, she went out with friends to a party on Temperance Street. Miller, 20, drank some beer along with her friends until 1:30 a.m. when she asked for a ride home. She was scheduled to work a shift at City Hospital at 7:30 the next morning.

Miller's date for the night, Dennis Elliot, drove her home. They sat outside of the house talking in Elliot's car for about 30 minutes. They made a date for the next night and parted company between 2 a.m. and 2:30 a.m.

Adeline Hall was a 23-year-old student living on the third-floor of the rooming house on 130 Ave. O south where Miller lived on the second floor.

At 6:35 that morning, Hall padded down to the second-floor bathroom. Just before she scurried back up the stairs, she saw Gail Miller in her white nurse's uniform, staring out a hallway window. Hall continued up the stairs and went back to her room.

An hour later, Vicky Fontaine, then 20, was beginning her shift at the pediatrics ward at City Hospital. She and Miller were hired at the same time in the summer of 1968. They had both taken the same certified nursing assistant course at Kelsey campus.

Fontaine usually went down to her locker in the basement of City Hospital and put on her uniform about 10 minutes before shifts began. On most days, Miller was already at work when Fontaine arrived.

"She was always there if she had to be there. She wasn't ill that often. We would have noticed she wasn't there right when the shift began," Fontaine testified.

Less than an hour later, Mary Marcoux, an 11-year-old Grade 6 student at St. Mary's School, was on her way to classes when she came across Miller's body in an alley - less than two blocks away from the Avenue O boarding house.

Gail Miller was stabbed 12 times and slashed 15 times, but two small punctures in her back killed her, a pathologist testified Tuesday.

Dr. Harry Emson has been the pre-eminent pathologist in Saskatoon for decades and he was the doctor who performed the autopsy on Miller's body Jan. 31, 1969.

Emson testified Miller bled to death from two stab wounds in her back that punctured her right lung. He said the extreme cold that morning - -42 C - would have hastened her demise.

Emson testified Miller probably died within 10 to 20 minutes of receiving the two fatal wounds. While the superficial wounds to Miller's neck were probably very painful, outside court Emson said Miller may not have suffered much if she was killed in the alley.

"I think the young lady bled to death. If she was in the lane at the time, she was also dying from cold. The accounts we have from people who have nearly died from cold is that it is not a painful experience," he said.

By the time Emson first examined Miller's body around 10:30 a.m., exposed parts of her skin were firmly frozen.

Miller's stab wounds were about 1.5 centimetres long and four to five centimetres deep. Her slash wounds were about 30 centimetres long from her left ear to her right collarbone. Only two of the wounds broke the skin and "were more spectacular than dangerous," Emson said.

Emson said the wounds were likely caused by a small kitchen knife similar to a knife blade recovered at the scene.

"It's probably the sort of knife one would use for potato peeling," Emson said. Under cross-examination, Emson acknowledged he couldn't be sure what knife caused the wounds. He also said Miller's vagina lacked many common indicators of sexual assault, such as bruising or tearing.

However, the absence of those indicators doesn't mean she wasn't raped, he said.

The Crown expects to call evidence for at least two more weeks. Prosecutors expect to call DNA experts who say tests implicate Fisher, while Fisher's former wife will testify about Fisher's whereabouts the morning of Miller's death.


Investigator discovered weapon used to kill Miller

YORKTON - The former chief of the Saskatoon police service found a bloodstained paring knife blade concealed in the snow where Gail Miller's frozen body was found.

Miller was stabbed and slashed 29 times on Jan. 31, 1969. Her body was found in an alley behind the 200 block of Avenue O South.

Larry Fisher, 50, is charged with Miller's rape and murder and he is now on trial before judge and jury in Yorkton.

About two hours after Miller's body was found by a girl on her way to school, the body was taken to St. Paul's Hospital for an autopsy.

Lieut. Joe Penkala, then head of the Saskatoon police identification unit, sifted through a three-metre diameter area of packed snow. Miller's body had been found in the middle of the area. Penkala testified Wednesday that it looked like a struggle had taken place in the spot.

After a few minutes of digging around, he said he found the knife blade.

"It was an inexpensive paring knife, the handle was broken off, and this blade was a serrated steel blade which was sharp on one side," he said.

A few weeks after Penkala found the blade, a seven-year-old boy was playing in the snow in his backyard, a few metres away from where Miller's body was found. He discovered what appeared to be a knife handle.

"I can remember it was a beet-reddish colour, three or four inches long. A little bit of the blade remained," said Richard Hounjet, who is now 38 years old.

Another boy, Giles Beauchamp, was walking down Avenue O South about two months later when he kicked a clump of snow and Gail Miller's purse popped out.

He testified that he turned the purse over to a friend's mother. She recognized Miller's name and called the police.

Penkala also testified Wednesday that he seized two yellowish clumps of snow from the scene about five days after Miller's death. Penkala acknowledged the crime scene was accessible to the public and dozens of onlookers went through the area between Miller's death and his recovery of the substances.

On Tuesday Dr. Harry Emson, the Saskatoon pathologist who performed Miller's autopsy, confirmed the yellow substance contained sperm.

"I have no proof that it was human or anything else, but there was sperm in it," Emson said.

Penkala had brief contact with a young suspect in the murder in the spring of 1969. David Edgar Milgaard was charged with Miller's murder in May. Penkala took Milgaard's fingerprints.

Penkala testified about "suspicious" behaviour by Milgaard, who gave fingerprints but refused to sign a form confirming the prints were his. Penkala also saw Milgaard put his ear to a keyhole to eavesdrop on police officers.

"It was odd behaviour. I regarded it with some suspicion," Penkala said.

He was convicted in 1970 and served in prison until 1992. DNA tests reportedly exonerated him in 1997.

Penkala, now retired, went on to become chief of the Saskatoon police department from 1981 to 1991.

The first in a series of DNA experts is expected to testify today.


Before we went online

August 1994: inJusticebusters Sheila Steele and Rick Klassen were part of a demonstration of a dozen people (including Marie Klassen, shown l in wheelchair, now deceased) protesting the whitewashing of Saskatchewan Justice's role in the Milgaard case. We demonstrated two days in a row. The first day, we picketed the Saskatchewan Provincial courthouse for an hour and the next morning we went to Queen's Bench courthouse. It was only when we moved the protest to the Saskatoon Police station that we were arrested, along with Rob Klassen, and charged with criminal defamation against Sgt. Brian Dueck and Carol Bunko-Ruys.

Marie Klassen

Steele and the Klassens were carrying signs which made allegation that Dueck, a police corporal and Bunko-Ruys, a contract social worker, had manufactured evidence in another case which had some of the same earmarks as the Milgaard frame-up. inJusticebusters said then and we say now that the Saskatoon Police Department has a history of using jailhouse snitches and disturbed children to manufacture evidence, that is, to suborn perjured testimony against innocent people. A full and honest public inquiry into the Foster Parent case would quickly reveal profound irregularities in police procedure, starting with the fact that there were apparently no official notes between Sgt. Dueck and Social Services.

Three years ago, Saskatchewan Justice hoodwinked Saskatchewan citizens into believing they had conducted a full public inquiry into child sexual abuse cases. They neglected to point out that the Foster Parent case was not part of the inquiry! Public Prosector Richard Quinney, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal and many other branches of Saskatchewan Justice have worked together -- dare we say conspired? - to keep the cover-up machine going.

As the Gail Miller murder trial gets underway, Larry Fisher's lawyer is casting aspersions on Joyce Milgaard's behavior. We should remind ourselves that 30 years ago, Joyce Milgaard was the mother of a falsely convicted teen-ager and that her determined investigation succeeded in lifting of the top blanket from the cozy bed of covers protecting a corrupt police department. Whoever she talked to, whatever her methods, no one can deny that her suspicions were well founded.

See also inJusticebusters and John Lucas' most recent picket of the Saskatoon Police station, April, 1999