A Saulteaux woman says she was wrongfully convicted for murder and is fighting for her freedom after spending more than 25 years in prison.
Odelia Quewezance was convicted of second-degree murder in 1994 for her part in the killing of Kamsack, Sask. area farmer Anthony Joseph Dolff, 70.
“I know he was still alive when we were in that living room,” she said. “I didn’t kill him.”
The 21-year-old woman, her sister Nerissa, 19 and their 14-year-old cousin Jason Keshane were partying at Dolff’s farmhouse on Feb. 25, 1993 on the border of the Keeseekoose First Nation.
The group was drinking heavily and according to Quewezance, things turned ugly after Dolff propositioned the women.
“He wanted to sleep with my sister,” she said. “I kind of got mad at that because I’ve been protecting my sisters all my life. I remember I pushed him away from my sister and I told him to leave my sister alone.”
Quewezance said it was Keshane who murdered Dolff.
Court records reveal it was a horrific crime.
Dolff was stabbed 17 times, twice in the heart, strangled with a phone cord and had a television thrown onto his head.
In a recent interview with APTN Investigates, Keshane admitted that he was the perpetrator. That would seem to exonerate the two sisters.
“I did everything,” he said, “I don’t know what to say but that I did it. I did it all.”
It’s not the first time Keshane has admitted his guilt. He did it during the trial, but both women were convicted of second-degree murder with the possibility of parole after 10 years. Neither has ever pled guilty.
Justice Ellen Gunn issued a Vetrovec warning in her instructions to jury at the time of deliberation. That gives judges the discretion to warn the jury of the risks of accepting the testimony of untrustworthy witnesses.
“I honestly believe that I should have never been charged for second degree all these years, “ Quewezance said. “I found it in my heart that this was too much of a long sentence and I was just a young lady that didn’t know.”
Quewezance said that many factors led her to the horrific night of violence. The fact she was drinking at all that night was a result of sexual abuse she experienced at residential school. She was abused by a health care worker when she was just eight- years old.
“I grew up in a very dysfunctional home,” she said. “My mother left when I was very young and my father did his best but he was an alcoholic.”
Quewezance’s partner Jay Koch has stood by her and the couple now have three daughters together despite her long incarceration. He reached out to prison advocate David Milgard who called private investigator Jolene Johnson in spring 2020 for help acquiring the trial transcript.
“We got the transcripts and I started reviewing them,” Johnson said, adding she took the case pro bono. “I was absolutely mortified at what I was reading and what actually happened at this trial.”
She said that there was no physical evidence tying Odelia Quewezance to the murder. And there was contradictory information about who was responsible for strangling Dolff with the telephone cord.
“There were statements made by the young offender that he put the telephone cord around the victim’s neck,” she said. “So it was just a lot of conjecture and a lot of contradictory [evidence] which was extremely concerning because to get a conviction of second-degree murder or any crime, you have to have beyond reasonable doubt.”
The sister’s lawyer told the RCMP at the time that they would not give statements. A justice of the peace ordered they should be remanded to the nearby Pine Grove correctional facility. Despite that order, the women were held for days and multiple statements were taken.
“The girls were held in cells for five days but yet the remand warrants said that they were supposed to go to the Women’s Correctional Center, not in the Kamsack police department,” Johnson said.
Nerissa Quewezance has been unlawfully at large since spring 2020. She was not available to be interviewed for the story.
When Odelia looks back, she wishes the truth had come out at trial.
“Jason made up a lot of stuff,” she said. “He admitted that he lied and how the police scared and threatened him. He told my sister that me and Nerissa shouldn’t be in prison. Why didn’t he say that back then?”
Next week on A Life Sentence, Odelia’s case gets some high-profile help.