Candace Derksen's parents hold onto love with candles
Mark Edward Grant found not guilty at 2nd trial for 13-year-old's 1984 murder
You can see the glow in the living room from the window outside the Derksen family's home. Thirty-three candles are lit to represent the nearly 33 years since Winnipeg teenager Candace Derksen was found dead.
Inside, a small crowd gathered. There was a couple who knew Candace, a filmmaker, a neighbour and a writer.
"We're celebrating the fact that people still remember Candace," said Wilma Derksen, speaking of her slain daughter.
"Candace loved people."
Candace disappeared in Winnipeg, on her way home from school, in November 1984. Following weeks of searching, the teen's body was found frozen in an industrial storage shed, not far from the family's home.
For years the family was left without answers until Mark Grant was arrested in 2007. In 2011, a jury found Grant guilty in the teen's slaying and he was sentenced to 25 years in prison but the decision was overturned in 2013 by the Manitoba Court of Appeal.
The retrial came to a close Wednesday, with a Court of Queen's Bench judge ruling that Grant was not guilty.
'Love is the way through'
Most of the people in the Derksen home were meeting for the first time, but all said they had been touched by the family's story. Elsewhere in Canada, people who know the Derksen family were also lighting candles — one in B.C. and another in Ontario.
"It's amazing," Candace's father Cliff Derksen said about the support his family had received from the community.
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Walter Janzen has been a friend of the family since the 1970s, when he got to know them through the church they attended. He met Candace when she was a baby but didn't see her again until her funeral in 1984.
He said he was surprised by the judge's ruling, but he's been moved by the family's strength over the decades.
"They're truly an inspiration," Janzen said.
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Dennis Ruchotzke said he developed a close relationship with the Derksens over the years and has always wondered how they found the strength to get through their daughter's death, years without answers and two trials.
Wilma Derksen said, "It's faith."
"I think there's also a sense of desperation," she said, her eyes filling with tears. "We know the darkness that can overcome us and it's just a step away, and so our faith has taught us and given us a direction that love is the way through.
"By grabbing and holding onto love is our way of dispelling the darkness because murder just creates darkness."
The couple said they hope the Crown doesn't appeal Wednesday's verdict.
With files from Samantha Samson