"Why was the artist in jail?" Cause he was framed.
I know this isn't an easy story but I will continue.....
I felt helpless standing on the sidelines watching Dave mobilize the community.
Candace had disappeared Friday evening, and to our amazement, by Saturday Dave had organized the first ground search, Sunday had been designated a day of prayer and all churches had been alerted. And to top it all off he had also arranged for an article in the Sunday SUN newspaper.
By Monday morning he had pulled together the beginnings of a search committee! Why is this "whirlwind" not our Prime Minister of Canada?
The people chosen were, Dave Teigrob representing MBCI and our church, River East Mennonite Brethren; Harold Jantz, editor of The Mennonite Brethren Herald; Henry Wedel, a schoolteacher; Dave DeFehr of Palliser Furniture; and his wife, Ester.
I remember walking into the room and looking over the composition of the committee; I sensed the power of it. We had representatives from the largest camp in Manitoba, the largest private school, one of the more powerful churches in Winnipeg, the Mennonite paper, and the largest western Canadian furniture business. This group was nothing to be sniffed at.
But what was far more important was something else I knew about them. I knew that all of them were known for their integrity.
This was what that beautiful Bible passage about bearing each other's burdens was all about. This was what scripture meant about each believer having a different gift and each having a different role to play. Everyone playing his or her part makes for a powerful team.
Dave Loewen with his organizational ability, Dave Teigrob with his school counseling experience and interchurch connections, Harold Jantz with his media know-how, and Ester DeFehr with a mother's perspective. The committee was complete.
At this founding meeting the "Candace Derksen Citizens Search Committee" was formally organized. Their mandate was to raise funds to cover expenses; receipts would be given for all donations, which would be handled by Camp Arnes. There was also talk about the possibility of offering a reward for information, about raising money for a private detective, about stepping up the poster distribution, and about organizing a press conference.
The first item on the agenda was that they had arranged for a a few reporters to come to our home later that afternoon.
Having the cameras coming into our little living room was an experience.
I think I noticed again how Wilma and my roles were being clarified, she was encouraged to be emotional, which she was anyway, I was needed to be the strategist and to encourage the actual search - which I found to be a needed distraction.
After our television appearance, we sensed a totally different attitude from the police. Inspector Heintz of the Juvenile Division told the media that the police were more concerned about Candace's safety with each passing day. "Statistics show that kids who run away usually return within two days," he told the media. "While there's no evidence suggesting foul play, we're certainly concerned about the situation."
Then the search committee printed posters with the captivating question "Have you seen Candace?" at the top and a big picture and a brief description of her underneath. They were printed on bright orange paper that could be spotted miles away.
Their next project was to organize another ground search of the area, this time by the students. The police were very cooperative in helping to brief the fifty MBCI seniors who wanted to go out and search on Tuesday. Five students from Kildonan East Regional Secondary School also joined in the search. The school had decided to recheck the entire area that Candace walked home from school. This time the search included the nearby riverbank and the railway tracks. The police supervised the entire search.
While searching, the students distributed the flyers and asked the residents near the school if they had seen or heard anything unusual during the last five days. The students did a marvelous job. In an hour-long blitz covering a twelve-square-block area, they distributed approximately one thousand flyers to residents and businesses of the area. Many of the businesses posted the picture in their front windows.
Soon after that two prominent Mennonites each donated a large sum of money; because of this, it became apparent that the committee needed a person to take charge of the search fund. Len DeFehr, Ester and Dave's cousin, was asked to come on as administrative secretary for the committee.
In a few days after the search and media blitz the public started to respond but it was disappointing that all the calls were still leading to dead ends.
In the days that followed the search committee kept pushing. They started to investigate the street life of Winnipeg. Was there a sex ring in the city? No, the police weren't aware of any organized prostitution. Then they started looking into the idea of a private investigator.
One organization again suggested a reward. "It could be bait for people on the fringe, but it should be done in conjunction with the police," they told us.
The committee moved on this suggestion and found it wasn't easy setting up a reward. Just establishing the amount of the reward had many ramifications. The reward couldn't be overwhelmingly large so as to tempt a law-abiding citizen to lie, yet it had to be significant enough to appeal to someone on the fringe of society and make it worth their while to speak up. We finally settled on a reward of two thousand dollars.
A contract was set up with the police and the wording was approved. The reward money was sponsored by The Candace Derksen Citizens Search Committee and was to be raised through private business people, but it was to be administered by the Winnipeg Police. A poster similar to the ones first distributed was designed. The initial print run was for five thousand copies, and MBCI students were again solicited to distribute most of the posters.
The reward was announced on December 19, nineteen days into our search. At that time the police also announced they had placed our case on a North America-wide alert.
The committee didn't stop there. They lobbied politicians like Jake Epp, then Canada's minister of health and Bill Blaikie, a federal member of Parliament. Blaikie responded by sending a letter to the minister of justice, John Crosbie. He wrote, "[Candace's disappearance] has, however, provided members of our community with a tragic opportunity to become acquainted with the facts concerning the numbers of missing children, and the not unreasonable fear that many such children have been abducted for purposes of child pornography and child prostitution."
Six weeks into this unbelievable search, Dave told us that he was leaving on a trip west to recruit counselors for summer camp. He stopped by the house to pick something up, and we asked if he had a few minutes to talk. He didn't, of course, but he sat down anyway.
Wilma and I sat on the sofa, and Dave relaxed in the armchair. I think that's when it hit all of us; throughout the whole six weeks the three of us had never really sat down and talked.
Dave had been doing triple duty. He had covered for me in the office, kept up with his own work, and chaired all the search committee meetings. We knew the camp was far behind schedule in their summer promotions and summer staff recruitment, the key factors to the success of the summer.
Dave had sacrificed much, so it was good to be able to relax for a few moments and tell Dave in person how much we appreciated his work.
He listed his hopes for the committee and then said, "We'll wait until I get back, and then we'll talk about this all again," he said.
By the time he returned everything had changed again....
We were incredibly thankful at the time for everything. It felt as if the entire city was loving on Candace and our family during our darkest moments.
I am still in awe.... what a amazing gift Dave gave us. He was an angel, a prophet, a friend, and a man of God. Thank you Dave, we love you and Elfrieda, you will never be forgotten!
and all of them deserve our respect and our appreciation."