APTN National News
The red car police believed was used in a Medicine Hat, Alta., murder that led to the conviction of a Cree woman who claims innocence was sold to a drug dealer nicknamed “Ginger” for crack and cash before the killing, says the vehicle’s former owner.
APTN National News has been investigating the case of Connie Oakes, 50, a Cree woman from Nekaneet First Nation in Saskatchewan, who was found guilty by a Medicine Hat jury of second-degree murder in the killing of local resident Casey Armstrong. Oakes says she did not commit the murder and is appealing her conviction with the Court of Appeal of Alberta.
Medicine Hat police believed a Red Grand-Am was used in the murder, according to a prosecutor case summary document obtained by APTN. The document also names the owner of the vehicle, a woman who currently lives in Medicine Hat. The woman said in an interview with APTN that police investigators repeatedly interrogated her because they had traced the car used in the murder to her. The woman, however, said she didn’t know Armstrong or Oakes and that she sold her car to a drug dealer she only knew by the nickname “Ginger.”
APTN National News has decided not to reveal the woman’s identity for the time being because she fears repercussions if her name is made public.
Oakes was convicted primarily on the testimony of a star Crown witness named Wendy Scott who pleaded guilty to helping out with the murder. Scott’s testimony, which was riddled with contradictions during trial, was key to the Crown’s case which lacked a murder weapon and any DNA or fingerprint evidence.
Scott is also trying to quash her guilty plea in the case and has filed her own appeal.
Armstrong was killed in his bathroom by stab wound through the neck. A partial, man’s size bloody boot-print found on the bathroom floor has never been identified.
During Oakes’ trial, Crown prosecutor Andrea Dolan never entered any detailed evidence on the vehicle used in the murder aside from stating it was red in colour.
One eye-witness testified a beat-up old red car was seen in the driveway of Armstrong’s trailer home on a Saturday morning during the May 2011 long-weekend when Armstrong was killed. The witness said she saw two Caucasian women, one wearing a baseball cap over reddish hair and another with long dark hair, putting a black garbage bag or duffle bag into the trunk of the car.
No evidence was submitted during Oakes’ trial indicating whether police ever found the car which the Crown said was used by Oakes and Scott during the murder.
Car sold for $500 and crack
According to the Medicine Hat woman identified in the case summary, police investigators told her they had the license plate number of the car used in the murder and it was registered to her name. The woman said she was interrogated by police between 10 to 15 times.
“(They) insisted I had something to do with it. I was in tears. I had nothing do with it and that is what I kept telling them. You can only tell them so many times. I am not going to tell you what you want to hear because it’s not the truth, right? I am not going to tell you I was involved when I wasn’t. I told them that and I told them I left my license plate on it and it seemed they didn’t believe me. I didn’t know who the guy was, same with Connie Oakes,” she said.
The woman said she sold her car for $500 and crack to a drug dealer named “Ginger.” The woman said she didn’t know Ginger’s real name. The woman said she forgot to change the plates and cancel her registration after she sold the car.
Before Scott accused Oakes and admitted to her role in the killing, she named three other people as culprits in the Armstrong murder. One of the people she identified was nicknamed Ginger.
The case summary document also sheds some light on why Medicine Hat police investigators focused on Oakes and Scott.
The document states that two officers received information from a confidential source linking Oakes and Scott to the murder. It’s unclear from the document whether the information came from one or two confidential sources.
The document also states an inmate incarcerated at the Edmonton Institution for Women told two officers during an interview in December 2011 that Oakes admitted to killing Armstrong. The inmate was incarcerated with Oakes who was serving a sentence on a separate matter at the time.
APTN recently contacted the former inmate who now lives in British Columbia. APTN has also decided not to reveal the former inmate’s identity for the time being.
Oakes knows the identity of the former inmate and denies she told her anything. Oakes says the former inmate’s claims are a total fabrication and the two barely interacted while they were both locked up at the institution.
The former inmate says she stands by her statements to police.
The former inmate said she remembers a man, whose last name she doesn’t remember, driving around in a “little red car” with Oakes and Scott.
The former inmate also identified two other men who were also initially named by Scott.
“I am not saying that they were there, I am not saying that at all,” said the former inmate. “They all hung around each other.”
Threatened with 25 years
Scott now says that she admitted to the murder because investigators told her she’d get 25 years in prison if she didn’t confess, according to a document filed as part of her appeal. The document states investigators told Scott they had a statement from Oakes implicating her in the killing.
No such statement ever existed.
Scott, 30, pleaded guilty and received a 10 year sentence.
Scott has been assessed by a psychiatrist as having an IQ of 50. She has also been on an Alberta program called Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped since she was 20 years old. She is currently being held at the Institut Philippe-Pinel in Montreal, a psychiatric institution.
APTN previously reported Scott’s claims she was also stoned during the coercive police interrogations and that she was questioned for several months longer than was disclosed to Oakes’ defence counsel. That information is contained in a sealed affidavit from Scott that forms part of Oakes’ appeal on fresh evidence grounds. A summary of the affidavit is contained in Oakes’ appeal filing which is available to the public.
It also emerged during Oakes’ appeal bail hearing that Scott stated in her affidavit that she doesn’t believe Oakes was at the trailer when Armstrong was killed.
Oakes has consistently maintained her innocence. She told APTN in an interview that the truth will eventually emerge.
“I will walk,” she said.