A Saskatchewan woman who stole back her freedom after being convicted for a murder she says she didn’t commit has been arrested in B.C.
Nerissa Quewezance was wanted on a Canada-wide warrant since spring 2020 for parole violations. She was arrested in Vancouver in July and appeared in Vancouver Provincial Court. She appears next on July 29.
Nerissa and her sister, Odelia Quewezance, have maintained their innocence for almost 30 years. They were sentenced to life on second-degree murder charges in 1994 for the death of Anthony Joseph Dolff from Kamsack, Saskatchewan. A young offender, who was 15 at the time, was also convicted.
In May, Nerissa spoke to the Battlefords News-Optimist on the phone from an undisclosed location when she was on the run.
“I’m doing awesome,” she said about her freedom. “I’m living the dream I never had.”
Even though Nerissa says she was wrongfully convicted, she isn’t bitter.
“I don’t blame nobody you know,” she said previously. “I learned to forgive.”
The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) National Vice-Chief Kim Beaudin has been calling on the federal government to intervene and release the sisters. Beaudin said despite a lack of physical evidence, and the testimony of the young offender admitting he was the one responsible for the murder in 1993, Odelia and Narrisa have remained in prison. Beaudin added that the young offender only received a four-year sentence for second-degree murder while the sisters were handed life sentences.
Odelia said they were treated unfairly from day one because they were Indigenous women living in Saskatchewan.
“Someone else has confessed to this horrific murder and still the justice system fails us,” said Odelia.
The sisters have the backing of David Milgaard, who is an example of Canada's most notorious miscarriages of justice. In 1969, he was arrested when he was only 16. In 1970, at the age of 17, he was wrongfully convicted of raping and murdering Saskatoon nurse Gail Miller. He spent almost 23 years behind bars before he was released in 1992 and exonerated by DNA evidence in 1997, which linked North Battleford serial rapist Larry Fisher to Miller’s brutal murder.
Milgaard — who believes in the siters' innocence — said the biggest indicator of innocence is for someone to consistently maintain their innocence for years. Milgaard was offered parole several times if he admitted to killing Miller but he refused to admit to a crime he didn't commit.
Previously, Senator Kim Pate said she was stunned the sisters haven’t been exonerated, adding there needs to be an immediate review of their convictions.
A spokesperson from the Saskatchewan Justice Minister’s office said the ministry is aware of the concerns that have been raised about the sisters’ innocence and they are working to gather additional information.
Federal Justice Minister David Lametti’s office said should an application be made to the Criminal Conviction Review Group, they would review relevant material and decide, on the basis of the facts and the law, whether a review application should be dismissed or allowed. Individuals who have exhausted their rights of appeal can apply to have their convictions reviewed.
Editor's note: This story was corrected to reflect Nerissa Quewezance was wanted since spring 2020. It was also updated to reflect that the arrest happened in Vancouver, B.C.