Innocence Project seeking release of Nuxalk prisoner after decades in prison

Philip Tallio has been in prison for 34 years serving time for a heinous crime.

APTN Investigates
Philip Tallio has been in prison for 34 years serving time for a heinous crime.

The rape and murder of 22-month-old Delavina Mack rocked the small community of remote Bella Coola, B.C. in April 1983. Tallio has always maintained his innocence though an alleged confession is a part of the Crown’s evidence.

After the University of British Columbia (UBC) Innocence Project took on his case, an appeal was filed in 2016.

APTN National News, in partnership with the Vancouver Sun, argued successfully in court for files related to the appeal to be unsealed. “A Case for Innocence” airs tonight (Jan. 12) on APTN Investigates. A number of documents are still subject to an ongoing publication ban.

“Because he maintains his innocence he actually has been in prison for decades longer then he had to be,” said his lawyer Rachel Barsky.

Barsky took up his case as part of the UBC Innocence Project and has been working on the appeal since 2009.

The night Delvania was killed, Philip was at a house party at his Uncle Cyril’s house and Delavania’s parents were also there. The baby had been left with grandparents, Sam and Gert Mack.

Tallio says he was asked by Delavania’s mother Lotta to go and check on the child.

“I knocked, called if anybody’s home. Went upstairs, Sam and Gert sleeping in the living room.” Tallio said in an interview with RCMP in 2011. “And you can smell the booze in the air. Delavina wasn’t with them so I went from door to door. Found her in the corner room. Could see that she wasn’t breathing. Her pajamas were down around her ankles. And that’s when I tried to wake up Sam and Gert. They wouldn’t wake up. That’s when I ran back to Cyril and Nina’s.”

Innocence Project lawyers collected a number of sworn affidavits from court officials including a psychiatrist that suggest Tallio had no idea what was happening to him in the court room. They propose a number of alternate suspects for the killing including Tallio’s uncle Cyril who is now deceased.

Lawyers also want new DNA testing based on the development of a procedure in the last year that can distinguish between male members of the same family along the paternal line. They’ve also collected new witnesses who are casting doubt on the efficacy of the initial police investigation.

Tallio declined a request for an interview.

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