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‘I just want to go home’: Canadian sisters fight for freedom after 1994 murder conviction

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WATCH ABOVE: There is growing widespread support for two sisters desperate for freedom. The Indigenous women were convicted of second-degree murder and sent to prison almost three decades ago. As Jill Croteau reports, they are getting support from a fellow Canadian who has been wrongfully convicted himself – May 24, 2021

Sisters Odelia and Nerissa Quewezance were sentenced to life in prison. They were convicted of second-degree murder in 1994 for the death of Anthony Joseph Dolff, a senior who lived in the town of Kamsack, Sask. Ever since they were found guilty, they have maintained their innocence.

Odelia now lives at a halfway house and spoke via Zoom.

“I just want to go home. I’m so tired of sitting in prison,” Odelia Quewezance said.

“Every day my children ask me: ‘When are you coming home, mom?’ My daughters are 13 and 21 years old. My twins were one when I was incarcerated and now they are 13.”

Read more: Canada’s Wrongfully Convicted: How does one achieve justice?

Her sister, Nerissa, is in hiding. She is wanted on a Canada-wide warrant for parole violations and insists she won’t turn herself in.

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Nerissa Quewezance. Credit: Crimestoppers

“I’ve always believed in my heart my sister and I should never have got a life sentence,” Odelia said.

A male youth, who was there are the time of the ’94 crime, admitted to being the one who stabbed Dolff, yet the two Indigenous women spent nearly three decades behind bars for a crime they insist they didn’t commit.

They now have a growing support fighting for their release. One of their advocates is a fellow Canadian who gained notoriety for his wrongful conviction.

David Milgaard now lives in Cochrane, Alta., with his family.

David Milgaard. Courtesy: Tom Andriuk

He spent 23 years in prison for the 1969 rape and murder of Gail Miller, a nurse who had been on her way to work. He was freed in 1992 and exonerated in 1997. Milgaard has been a tireless champion for others just like him.

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“It’s not an easy thing to get back into the community when you spend half your life inside prison,” Milgaard said. “It’s been tough for me.”

David Milgaard. Courtesy: Tom Andriuk

But it’s that experience that forced him to this calling, helping others he believes are innocent. He wants to right the wrongs for the two Quewezance sisters.

“Federal Justice Minister David Lametti needs to free these women from their ordeal. They just want to come home to their families and need to heal do this now.” Milgaard said. “Stop holding the wrongfully convicted hostage, free these people now.”

Read more: Killer behind David Milgaard conviction dies

Jolene Johnson is a private investigator who has taken on the case pro bono.

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“I was able to secure transcripts of their trial, it was 1,500 pages worth and when I was reading it, there was a lot of concerns the way the investigation had taken place,” Johnson said. “There wasn’t a shred of physical evidence, other than the girls’ statements, which in my opinion, were coerced.”

Johnson said in her opinion, there were errors in the investigation.

“When you look at the evidence there was no physical DNA or blood evidence against Odelia or Nerissa,” Johnson said. “This whole case should be reviewed and the justice minister needs to quash their convictions.

The Congress of Aboriginal People’s (CAP) is also calling for the prime minister to intervene. Vice-chief of CAP Kim Beaudin said the government needs to expedite the women’s release.

“It’s time they step in and commit to address this and the sisters go home,” Beaudin said. “Enough is enough, this is just crazy.”

Read more: David Milgaard among speakers at Winnipeg wrongful conviction conference

Senator Kim Pate is also lobbying the government for their release.

“The majority of women serving life sentences are Indigenous women,” Pate said. “Someone else has confessed, why there isn’t a review is beyond me.”

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Neither minister Lametti’s office nor Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office returned Global News’ requests for comment.

“Let there be justice for me and my sister Nerissa. It’s time,” Odelia said.

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