RCMP arrest First Nations woman behind $1M wrongful murder conviction lawsuit

A Cree woman from Nekaneet First Nation, Sask., who recently launched a $1 million lawsuit over her wrongful murder conviction, was arrested Tuesday on a charge of obstruction of justice, according to Saskatchewan RCMP.

Connie Oakes was returning to family farm for 1st time following recent jail sentence when she was arrested

Connie Oakes was arrested Tuesday in Saskatchewan on an obstruction of justice charge. (CBC)

A Cree woman from Nekaneet First Nation, Sask., who recently launched a $1 million lawsuit over her wrongful murder conviction, was arrested Tuesday on a charge of obstruction of justice, according to Saskatchewan RCMP.

The charge is unrelated to the wrongful murder conviction case.

Connie Oakes, whose second-degree murder conviction was quashed in 2016, was arrested by RCMP officers shortly after she arrived at her family's farm near Maple Creek, Sask., according to a family member.

Saskatchewan RCMP spokesperson Paul Dederick said Wednesday that Oakes, 53, was charged with obstruction of justice following an investigation that began in December 2017.

Dederick said Oakes, who is currently in custody, is scheduled to appear in Regina provincial court on Friday.

Oakes was in provincial jail during December 2017 serving a 14-month sentence following a guilty plea to charges of forcible confinement, uttering threats, aggravated assault and breaching conditions stemming from an April 5, 2017 incident.

Maple Creek RCMP Sgt. John Phipps said the obstruction of justice charge is related to that case. 

Back home for first time

Earlier this week, Oakes told CBC News that in late April she contacted the Maple Creek RCMP detachment seeking permission to attend a community feast commemorating her deceased son. Her son Joseph Carry, 23, had died from cancer while she was in federal prison serving time on the wrongful murder conviction.

Oakes was living in Saskatoon, serving the tail-end of her sentence on an extended leave with conditions that required regular check-ins, and called the RCMP for permission to travel back home. Oakes said the Maple Creek detachment denied her request.

Phipps said the decision to deny her request came from Oakes' sentence supervisor in Saskatoon.

On Tuesday afternoon Oakes was returning to her family's farm for the first time following the completion of her sentence when she was arrested.   

Phipps said the timing of Oakes' arrest was dictated by the investigation. 

"Our investigation led us to this point not before now," said Phipps.

$1M lawsuit

Oakes recently filed a $1 million lawsuit against the Alberta government and the Medicine Hat, Alta., police following her wrongful murder conviction for the May 2011 killing of Medicine Hat resident Casey Armstrong.

Tom Engel, Oakes' Edmonton lawyer on the lawsuit, said he hadn't yet spoken with Oakes and could not comment.

The Alberta Court of Appeal also overturned the murder conviction of Oakes' co-accused Wendy Scott, a woman with an IQ of 50 who provided the only evidence against Oakes.

Oakes spoke to CBC News in April and said she was taking classes and hunting for a job. Oakes said she hit rock bottom after she was released from federal prison on the wrongful murder conviction and returned to a life of crime but was now trying to turn her life around following her recent incarceration.

About the Author

Jorge Barrera

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Jorge Barrera is a Caracas-born, award-winning journalist who has worked across the country and internationally. He is currently working for the CBC Indigenous unit based out of Ottawa.