The headlines in the summer of 1991 called it The Scandal of the Century.
Almost 10 years later, it is the story that Saskatchewan Justice still doesn't want the public to know.
It is a story of innocent families torn apart by inflammatory allegations of child sexual abuse, flawed allegations by police and Social Services and politically motivated plea bargaining.
In 1991, 16 people were charged with more than 60 counts of incest, gross indecency and sexual assault after an 18-month investigation.
Charges were stayed against twelve of the accused on the eve of the trial after one family member agreed to plead guilty.
Of the four convictions recorded in the case, three were later overturned by the Supreme Court. The one that survived appeal resulted from the plea bargain.
At the centre of the case are a boy and his twin sisters. Almost a decade later, they now say they fabricated the charges against twelve members of their foster parents' family and that police, Social Services and the Crown wilfully turned a blind eye to the real abuse as they pursued the cases against the adults.
Sexual abuse was rampant, says one of the girls, who is now 16.
"My brother was abusing me and my sister and we'd get manipulated to say it was the adults and not him," she said.
"(Investigators) said 'We'll take you to McDonald's if you can say this and this and this,' giving us little rewards if we said certain things."
In an affidavit sworn before a local lawyer March 8, the brother states: "I made up these stories because I felt pressured and was making up stories as we went along. Once I had made up some stories, I felt pressured not to deny them, and to make up more stories."
The families who were cleared of the charges have launched a $10-million civil suit, saying they are still fighting to come to terms with what happened.
"I'm scared — we all are," Richard Klassen He was accused along with his parents, sister and brothers. "You can't become afraid of kids . . . because it could happen again."
11-Oct-2011: In what follows the Hepners and Blacks are the Klassen and Ross families respectively. Tom is Michael Ross; Julie and Mary are Kathy and Michelle Ross. The names were changed because of a publication ban. Diane and Dennis Marcus are the Kvellos. Bunko-Ruys and Dueck are real names.
The young boy and his twin sisters were well known to Social Services by the time they were placed in the foster home of Scott and Emma Hepner on February 13, 1987.
The children's parents, Don and Emma Black, married in 1979. He was 48, she was 21, and both were deaf and mute. They had three children: Tom, on October 18, 1979, and then Julie and Mary, on March 4, 1982,
The marriage was unstable and neither parents proved capable of adequately caring for their children. Emma had a serious drinking problem and eventually took up with another man, Don White. The children were left in the care of their father, then 56, for extended periods. He often locked them in their rooms because it was the only effective way of controlling their behaviour. Social Services in Saskatoon became aware of the situation in 1983, when the girls were hospitalized suffering from malnutrition.
Tom, seven years old and in kindergarten in 1986, concerned teachers with his aggressive sexual behaviour that included inappropriate touching of other children, undressing and inviting other children and staff to have sex with him. He was described as developmentally slow and badly behaved and later diagnosed with attention deficit disorder. Similar observations were made of the twins who later attended the same school.
By 1987, Emma had moved in with Don White. Primary care of the children fell on their birth father and his failure to adequately car for them led to their placement by Social Services in the Hepner home.
Social Services did not tell the Hepners of the children's troubled history or offer any special assistance in caring for them.
Tom was then seven and a half years old, Julie and Mary five. Shortly after their arrival, Emma Hepner began observing them engaging in sexually overt behaviour, finding them kissing and hugging, or naked together in the playroom.
The following eight months, from mid-February to mid-October, 1987, the children were allowed unsupervised visits with their father, who occasionally took them on overnight visits.
In April, two months after their arrival, Emma Hepner began to suspect the girls were sexually abused. A babysitter in February had found Tom inserting a butter knife and liquid soap into Julie's vagina and the situation was reported to police and the Sexual Assault Centre.
"They interviewed all three children, but could not determine that they had ever been sexually abused, only that they knew far more about sexual matters than they should," said a report for the MacNeill Clinic in Saskatoon.
In September, 1987, the three children visited their father, Don Black, overnight. When they returned to the Hepner residence, Emma noticed redness about Julie's vagina and blood spots on the girl's panties. She took her to a doctor, who concluded the girl had been subjected to "non-accidental trauma of the genital area." Unsupervised visits to their natural father were stopped.
In November of 1989, the children's natural mother consented to the boy and his sitters becoming permanent wards. The Hepners were willing to care for the girls but were concerned about Tom's behaviour. As a result, he was transferred to a special foster home in Warman.
Not long after his arrival, he alleged that the children had been abused in the Hepner foster home. This prompted Social Services to investigate and, as a result, the girls were removed and placed in the Warman home with their brother on May 29, 1990.
The Warman foster parents observed an array of disturbing sexual behaviour by the children. On June 5, 1990, the three children were examined by Dr. John Yelland, who found some medical evidence consistent with sexual abuse. Each of the children began seeing Carol Bunko-Ruys, a child therapist in private practice.
In the weeks that followed, the children began to relate a wide range of abuse supposedly involving Emma and Don Black, Don White, the Hepner foster parents and many of the Hepner relatives, including in-laws Diane and Dennis Marcus. As the reports became more serious and wide ranging, Saskatoon Police Cpl. Brian Dueck began interviewing the children, beginning in late October of that year and continuing into November.
Dueck interviewed the children at length in videotaped sessions. The therapist was present at the fall interviews.
Dueck's investigation continued into the spring of 1991 and the catalogue of incredible allegations, including adults cutting the children with knives, forcing them to participate in orgies, drink blood and urine, eat human feces, eyeballs and roasted babies and have sex with dogs and flying bats.
On May 31, 1991, the children were re-examined by Yelland for signs of physical and sexual abuse, given what they had been telling their foster parents, Bunko-Ruys and Dueck. Yelland concluded the children had been subjected to forms of sexual and physical abuse consistent with what they had been reporting.
Based on this information, Emma and Don Black and Don White were charged on July 11, 1991, with sexual assault causing bodily harm, gross indecency and incest in the seven year period between Jan. 1, 1983 and Dec. 31, 1989.
Scott and Emma Hepner were also charged, as were several adult members of the Hepner family, including Scott's father, Peter, and his wheel-chair bound mother, Sophie.
Saskatoon defence lawyer Donald MacKinnon represented Don White, who was eventually acquitted of all charges by the Supreme Court.
"You have to look at it in the context of the early 1990s," he said.
"There were ritual abuse cases reported in the United States and there was a perception within the police and prosecutorial authorities that these far fetched stories were true. With the advantage of hindsight, in all the cases the prosecutions were without merit."
Nothing in their experience prepared the Hepner family for what happened when the three foster children entered their lives.
In 1987, 56-year old Peter and 53-year-old Sophie Hepner lived in Saskatoon with their adult children. Scott and Emma had been foster parents for some years, without any complaints, and Scott worked as a commercial painter in a business with his brothers, Rick and John. Their youngest sister, Angela was single with an adopted son.
"Scott and I worked together but we seldom visited, it's not like I 'd go into his home," says Rick. "I'd pick him up and we'd go to work. I saw the foster kids maybe three times in the two years."
By 1989, the local economy had slowed to the point where John and Rick moved their families and painting business to Red Deer, Alta. It was while living there that Rick Hepner was contacted by Cpl. Dueck. "He asked if I would voluntarily come to Saskatoon to be interviewed by the police because allegations of sexual abuse had been made against me by Tom, Mary and Julie," he said.
"He expected to contact me within two weeks."
In June, Dueck went to Red Deer and interviewed Rick Hepner.
"On July 10, 1991, I was arrested under an inter-provincial RCMP warrant and detained for six days. Eleven other people were arrested at exactly the same time."
On July 16, he was released on $250 bail and a host of no-contact provisions.
"We were completely shocked. I had no idea what they were talking about, and the kids were so obviously lying. They had said Mom had chased them down the street with a butcher knife — and she's in a wheelchair."
Still, Rick believed the truth would come out at the preliminary hearing that started Dec. 2, 1991, in front of Provincial Court Judge Robert Finley. As the hearing progressed into January, Rick recalls how "I wasn't scared because they were so clearly lying. Then it got serious."
Matthew Miazga and Sonja Hansen represented the case for the Crown. Daryl Labach represented the Hepners with Robert Borden defending Emma Hepner's sister and brother-in-law Dennis and Diane Marcus and their two children.
"When we were held to stand trial after the preliminary hearing my sister, Pam, had a complete nervous breakdown," says Rick.
"They took away her adopted boy and we lost her, she's gone now and will never be the same.. We were all close to suicide."
The Marcuses were equally mystified.
"We were only charged because I'm a sister to Emma Hepner, that's how they drew my family in," said the mother.
"Some of them we never knew till we seen them sitting in court."
The Hepners eventually went on welfare, their painting business collapsing as the public quickly identified them as the accused, despite bans on publication.
"We closed the paint shop because they knew in Red Deer and they knew in Saskatoon. They just put it together," he said.
At a six-week trial in November and December, 1992, Queen's Bench Justice Mary Batten convicted Don Black of three counts of sexual assault and two counts of assault causing bodily harm. Emma Black was convicted of three counts of sexual assault and two counts of assault causing bodily harm. Don White was convicted of three counts of sexual assault. The parents were sentenced to six years, the mother's boyfriend to three years.
Shortly after the convictions, The StarPhoenix arranged for Don White to take a lie detector test. The test was administered by former RCMP polygraph expert Mike Robinson. White was questioned about a number of specific allegations from the preliminary hearing and trial. Analysing the man's response to specific allegations of sexual abuse, Robinson concluded Don White "was wronged," but his findings did not affect the legal process.
After the 1992 trial, patriarch Peter Hepner, who had earlier been convicted of an unrelated sexual assault on two neighbour girls, plead guilty as part of a plea bargain to charges of sexual assault on the three children. The remaining charges against the Hepners and Marcuses were stayed days before the start of their trial.
At the time that the charges were stayed, Justice Batten said, "My only hope is that these children will (now) be able to heal in peace. . . .In the name of justice we put them through (this)."
At his sentencing, Justice Marion Wedge described Peter Hepner as "a dirty old man" and sent him to a federal penitentiary for four years. He served the full term and his wife Sophie died while he was in jail.
"Dad is the one who paid the ultimate price, but we stood by him,"
Scandal: Appeal dissent pushed case to Supreme Court
COURT OF APPEAL transcripts from Peter Hepner's 1994 hearing and the 1996 Supreme Court ruling that reversed the conviction of Don White and ordered new trials for Don Black and Emma Black offer a glimpse of what happened behind the scenes at Saskatchewan Justice.
Emma and Don Black and Don White appealed their conviction by Justice Batten. The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal heard the matter, with Justice Stuart Cameron writing for the majority after deliberating for 17 months.
Cameron said the children's physical condition and sexualized behaviour was consistent with sexual abuse, points confirmed by the Crown's expert testimony. However, in the absence of corroborating evidence, the guilt of the accused turned on the credibility of the testimony of the children. Cameron agreed with the trial judge that the children could be believed.
It was not a unanimous decision.
In his written dissent, Justice William Vancise determined the trial judge had made four errors in law. Batten had allowed out-of-court statements made by Julie to Emma Hepner to be admitted as testimony, she had rejected expert testimony on the credibility of the children, she refused to allow a full cross-examination of therapist Carol bunko-Ruys, and she erred in finding the children's testimony credible.
Vancise's dissent opened the door for the Supreme court hearing.
On January 30, 1996, the high court acquitted Don White and ordered new trials for Emma and Don Black.
Writing for the majority, Chief Justice J.J. Major said that the out-of-court statements allowed at the trial, and upheld during appeal, should not have been admitted.
"The statements were not sufficiently reliable to be admitted," he said.
"There was evidence that the children tended to lie to cover up the sexual activity that took place between them."
Major said the expert testimony that spoke to the credibility of the children's memories should have been allowed because "the credibility of the children was central to the disposition of the case, and considering the nature of the children's evidence, any explanation of their otherwise incredible behaviour could only aid the trier of fact in accurately assessing their credibility."
Further, Major said that Justice Batton should have allowed the full cross-examination of Carol Bunko-Ruys.
Given the importance of the right to cross-examine witnesses, and the fact that the issue of the children's credibility was central to the allegations of the accused, the trial judge erred in restricting the cross-examination of Ms. Bunko-Ruys."
The Supreme court justices determined that, although it was established through medical and psychological evidence that the children had been sexually abused it never determined by whom. They also noted that the trial judge did not identify the evidence on which the convictions were based.
In 1994, Peter Hepner launched an appeal to allow for the admission of new evidence in a bid to overturn his earlier guilty plea. The testimony of Crown Prosecutor Matthew Miazga on May 26, 1994 revealed the political concerns of senior Justice officials in Regina with the potential stay of proceedings against the thirteen people charged in the case.
Miazga testified under questioning that Peter Hepner had originally offered to plead guilty to one count of sexual assault in exchange for the dropping of the outstanding charges against his family.
"And my response to that was that was not sufficient," Miazga said.
"We had just been — we just had convicted three people who for the most part no one ever thought we had a chance to get those convictions, including myself, quite frankly, from time to time. And we couldn't just suddenly dismiss everything these children had said about these other individuals and I said that was not going to be sufficient for me to take to discuss with my colleagues."
Miazga testified how he negotiated for Hepner to plead guilty to one assault and take responsibility for the assaults on Tom, Mary and Julie.
"I would recommend to Regina that that would be sufficient resolution of the case in light of all the other things that I had mentioned earlier."
Miazga related how he travelled to Regina with co-prosecutor Sonja Hansen to meet with Richard Quinney, director of public prosecutions, senior bureaucrat Daryl Rayner and lawyer Carol Snell.
The senior officials were concerned about dismissing the case on a single plea bargain.
"Well the meeting was — it went on for some time and there was quite a lot of concern on the part of, again, the senior people on our department about resolving a case in this way where it would be an obvious plea negotiation," he said.
"In particular at that time I recall there had been a resolution of a murder trial . . . and it had resulted in a lot of very negative commentary about plea bargaining and plea negotiations.
"And at that time head office, in my view, was extremely sensitive to what would be viewed as a plea bargain and wanted to make sure this was not — that this was the right thing to do."
Miazga said the meeting concluded with the Saskatoon Crowns told that "we should go back to defence counsel and see whether or not anyone else was prepared to plead guilty because our view was there was a reasonable probability of conviction in regards to some of the other people in the Hepner family and we should pursue that. And I did so."
In the end, however, the charges were dropped against the Hepners and Marcuses in exchange for Peter Hepner pleading guilty to the four charges.
THE FALLOUT FROM the Scandal of the Century still reverberates through the province. Soon after the charges were dropped against the Hepners and Marcuses, they filed a $10 million civil suit against the Department of Justice, Saskatoon police, social workers and Crown prosecutors, alleging malicious prosecution.
John and Johanna Lucas, Sheila Steele and Rick Klassen were charged in 1994 with defamatory libel for the poster and placard campaign against Dueck and Bunko-Ruys for their investigations into the sexual abuse charges. Steele's charges were dropped and Klassen won a directed jury verdict.
Lucas was active in a Saskatoon prisoners' rights group. He was contacted by members of the Klassen family , who were seeking advice as to how to cope with the impact of the allegations on their lives, even though the charges had been stayed. They provided Lucas with information and documentation on the charges.
The posters alleged that Dueck and Bunko-Ruys left the twins, Julie and Mary, in the same home with Tom even though there was significant evidence suggesting the boy was torturing and sexually abusing his sisters. The three were placed in the Warman home in May, 1990 and stayed there until the charges were laid against the Hepners and Marcuses in July, 1991.
This happened despite written reports from the MacNeill clinic for Child Psychiatry as early as 1987 concerning Tom potentially abusing his sister Julie. The reports also note how the then-eight-year old would sneak downstairs in the middle of the night to put on lady's high heel shoes and panty hose.
In that same period, there were reports from the school concerning his sexualized behaviour, and evidence of sexual abuse of all three from the medical examinations.
John and Johannna Lucas were convicted of defamatory libel in April 1995. In January, 1996, they lost at Saskatchewan Court of Appeal, although the court reduced their sentences. Johanna Lucas served one year, down from the original sentence of 22 months, while John Lucas served an 18-month sentence. It had been reduced from two years less a day.
Less than an hour after his release from jail in 1996, John Lucas was back on the street attaching posters to poles downtown.
In overturning the conviction of Johanna Lucas (sic) in April, 1998, the Supreme Court outlined the factual background to the defamatory libel charges.
"During the course of his investigation, the police officer was informed by Mr. and Mrs. Thompson that the children had been openly displaying inappropriate sexual behaviour. He was told that they were sexually active with each other and that the family dog had been subjected to sexual acts. Moreover, the police officer had been informed that Tom had sexually assaulted his sisters on numerous occasions and that Mr. and Mrs. Thompson, despite their efforts, were unable to stop them," the court said.
"The acts of sexual abuse were also recounted to the officer during the course of his interviews with the three children. However, as a result of his reliance upon the opinion of the children's therapist, the officer kept them together in the special care foster home. This, it was believed, would make the children easier to treat."
Hepner says that he does not always agree with the unorthodox methods employed by Steele and Lucas. The pair (sic) operate a controversial Internet website — www.injusticebusters.com — and are not afraid to break the publication bans still covering much of this case.
After the committal for trial at the preliminary hearing, Hepner said "I sought out people like Lucas and Steele."
"I don't agree with some of the ways things have been done, but we have to fight for our names."
The most recent posters feature copies of the affidavit signed by Tom Black, who is now 19. In the document, he says that he made up the stories of abuse by the Hepners and Marcuses and that none of the facts alleging sexual misconduct, sexual abuse or sexual assault against the two families are true.
Mary Black says there was abuse, and it came from her older brother.
"He'd say, 'It wasn't me, it wasn't me.' To this day, he's still manipulative and very abusive toward me. It's 'Do this, or I'm going to hit you,' which is why I try not to associate myself with him very often," she said in an interview.
"I party sometimes, but not as much as my brother. My brother, he drinks and smokes up all the time. I try not to go around him that much, he's not really a good role model for me, he never has been.
"We never really developed that sister-brother relationship."
Today, the Hepners are still trying to re-assemble their lives. Sophie Hepner died in 1995, her husband serving the full four years of his plea-bargained sentence before his release in 1997, Rick and Kari Hepner live in Manitoba, while brother Scott (and Emma) and John (and Myrna) are back working in Alberta.
Their youngest sister, Pamela, lives in a small town in Saskatchewan.
"I'm scared. We all are because it could happen again," said Rick.
"You end up scared of other people's kids, afraid of everything."
The Marcuses, who still live in Saskatoon, say the investigation and the charges changed their lives forever. At the time, their children were 10 and 13 years old.
"When it happened and we heard what the cops said we did — we can't handle it,' said Diane Marcus.
"I was floored by what they were saying. How could I be this person? It was hell."
The woman quit her job as a nurse's aide because "I couldn't give suppositories, the case kept running through my head.
"Now I hate Christmas. They said we decorated our tree with penises and vaginas. I used to love decorating, and I don't even want to see a Christmas tree." said Rick.
The Foster Parent "Scandal of the Century" in Saskatoon is part of a larger outbreak of child abuse allegations from the late 1980s and early 1900s that swept Black North America.
The claims of horrific child sexual abuse, often with a strong Satanic flavour, surfaced first at a California day care centre in 1983. By the end of the decade, more than 100 day care providers in the U.S. and Canada — including the Sterling family in Martensville — were investigated.
"The new folk devils who were demonized in the 1980s were day care providers who, it was claimed, were abusing their very young charges in satanic rituals that included such horrific practices as blood-drinking, cannibalism and human sacrifices," said Grand alley State University professor deYoung.
She described the phonomenon in an article entitled, "Another Look at Moral Panics: The Case of the Satanic Day Care Centres."
"These investigations created deep and often irreparable breaches in communities where they occurred and resulted in scores of arrests, often long and costly criminal trials, many convictions despite the absence of any corroborating and material evidence, usually draconian prison sentences and, over recent years, many reversals of those convictions on appeal.," she said.
"The Satanic day care scare had all the defining characteristics of a moral panic: it was widespread, over-reactive, volatile, hostile and largely irrational."
Mary deYoung tabulated results from 15 day care cases with 38 defendants. Of that total, 27 of the individuals either had their charges dropped, were found not guilty or had the convictions reversed by higher courts.
Kingston writer Bruce Robinson studied 38 "multi-victim multi-offender cases" for the Internet group Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. He concludes that, less a handful of the cases, no ritual abuse occurred and any criminal acts were non-ritual abuse by a single perpetrator.
"We had all been able to track down some instances of Christian ritual abuse in the form of exorcisms. There is typically one accidental homicide each year in North America from this type of abuse, but we had never been able to track down any instances of ritual abuse by Satanists or similar groups," he told The StarPhoenix.
"Except for a few areas of North America — Utah, the southernmost states in the U.S., Saskatchewan and Alberta — the Satanic Panic" has pretty much dissipated and is now just an ugly memory."
Robinson sid the hysteria was often triggered by a single event — a teacher's concern, a police officer's question — that then snowballed.
"Parents started to grill their kids and kept on grilling their kids. If you ask direct and repeated questions of kids, you'll get the kind of answers you expect," he said.
"Investigators zero in on a particular pre-school, or something of that sort, with the assumption terrible things are happening. They ask direct and repeated questions of the kids and they get the answers and then use the answers to ask more questions of more kids and the whole thing gets out of hand."
The Martensville case has elements similar to what happened in the United States. On June 3, 1992, charges were laid against Ron and Linda Sterling, their son Travis and a youth in the wake of claims of child sexual abuse at the family's babysitting service in the community north of Saskatoon.
By the end of the investigation, more than 60 charges were laid against the Sterlings, including sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon, unlawful confinement and anal intercourse.
The investigation expanded to more than 170 charges against nine people. Those charged included police officers from Martensville and Saskatoon. The basic allegation was that the Sterlings and police were part of a satanic ring that sexually abused and threatened children in a "Devil's Church" in the surrounding rural area.
The matters all went to trial in late 1993 and early 1994. Of the 173 original charges against nine people, there was ultimately one conviction on one charge. The children who made the allegations were unable to identify the accused in court. During the court proceedings, the interviewing and investigative techniques used as a basis for the charges came under severe criticism.
Minnesota psychologist Ralph Underwager testified as a defence witness in the Martensville trials. He believes the hysteria that swept North America at the time of the charges reflected "a society and world in a transitional phase."
"The glue that holds societies together, the common set of values, assumptions, expectations, that kind of stuff, doesn't work any more," he said in an interview.
In the face of these shifting values, people "need a devil, something they can look at and say, "That's bad and I'm not that, so I'm good." In our society in the 1980's and 1990s, the evil out there that has replaced Hitler and the communist kind of stuff is the sexual molester."
The one thing that became apparent as the convictions were overturned is that "children are more suggestible, they do lie, they do respond to misinformation and they can fabricate stories."
This thorough feature by Dan Zakreski was published as a huge feature with a front page headline in the weekend edition of the StarPhoenix. We were excited and expected something to happen.
Michelle was also excited. She had bravely come forward and expected a good outcome for doing the right thing. Michael was not pleased with what Michelle had told the reporter. He was still denying that he had raped his sisters even though he admitted that he had made up the lies about the Klassens and Kvellos. He and Michelle argued about this and eventually, the arguments escalated to physical assaults. Michelle tried to lay charges against Michael and arranged for Steele to take pictures of her a few days after the assault — the bruises on her neck were fading but still visible. The Saskatoon Police were phoned about eight times (including a call from a prominent prosecutor in Saskatoon) before they charged Michael, a full two months after the original complaint was laid.
Michael pled guilty to the charge and went to jail in June, 2000. In July, from jail he contacted Steele and began having daily telephone conversations with her. It was during this time that he realized that denying his actions as an adolescent, and trying to get Michelle and Kathy to conspire with him to protect the lie was impossible. He feared that he could still be charged and received assurance that he would not be. When the Fifth Estate crew arrived at the end of August, he was ready to tell the truth. It was difficult for him, as can be seen from the show. The meeting with Richard Klassen six weeks later was difficult for both of them.
As of this writing (March, 2001) Michael's life has not become much better. He has no skill with managing money and has had limited success with his struggle with alcohol addiction. He makes resolutions which are sincere but impossible to keep because of the instability of his life. Social Services give him barely enough to live.
Michelle had a baby boy in February. She and her partner are also struggling with a variety of problems, but are generally doing well.
We were all surprised when Kathy surfaced in January. She also has lots of problems, as one would expect. Social Services has lied to her over and over again. She was fortunate to have a teacher in Vernon who brought the Fifth Estate show to her attention.
She and Michelle have filed a statement of claim against the province but it is hard to know what will become of it. The lawyers who filed refused to act for Michael and so Michael still has no claim. There is a weird sexism operating where many feel Michelle and Kathy were victimized worse than Michael.
Michael was trained and encouraged to lie and to rape his sisters. Brian Dueck, Carol Bunko and the Thompsons knew that he was doing this for 42 months and allowed it to continue. It could be argued that Michael has the biggest claim of all. Certainly none of us should be complacent. If we create monsters and allow them to live among us, we must understand there will be consequences.
injusticebusters are pleased to report that Michael has outsmarted the monster-created and has filed a claim for damages, along with Peter Klassen (the Scott Hepner of Zakreski's story.)
Meanwhile Zakreski is being sent to trial in North Battleford for supposedly breaking a publication ban in another excellent feature about young criminals with fetal alcohol syndrome. Because he described in detail Helen Montgomery's murder, her relatives complained they were hurt.
It was not until early 2000 that fifth estate found the story. They did careful research and, despite threats from the Saskatchewan government to have them criminally charged for breaking the publication bans, they aired the show November 29, 2000.
Fifth estate: Breaking through to the public
The show eventually won all the major prizes for broadcast journalism. Fifth estate Justicia award
It was shown many times and was updated after Kathy Ross came forward.
Through this exposure, the whole country became aware of this story which is still continuing.
The civil proceedings finally took place, beginning September 8 in Saskatoon. The liability part of the trial ended in early November. On Dec. 30, Judge George Baynton released findings of malice. Chief Sabo apologized January 6. The Saskatchewan government announced it would not apologize and intended to appeal on Jan. 8, 2004. Dueck settled, dropped his appeal and retired December, 2004.
Miazga and Carol Bunko-Ruys appealed.
Some settlements were made. Richard Klassen agreed to certain terms in exchange for an expedited appeal.
The appeal was not expedited.
As of March 21, 2005, there has been no hearing regarding the intervenor status and the appeal is stalled.
I was told that a lawyer's journal from eastern Canada, published this fall, had an article written on behalf of prosecutors which calls for acivity to get more "crown-friendly" judges appointed to the Bench and stated that the Baynton findings of malice must be defeated "at all costs".