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Day parole extended for Onion Lake man convicted of 1997 murder

Warning: Some readers may find details in this story disturbing. An Onion Lake man serving a life sentence for second-degree murder can continue his day parole, the Parole Board of Canada ruled on March 1, 2021.
Erling Waskewitch in 2001

Warning: Some readers may find details in this story disturbing.

An Onion Lake man serving a life sentence for second-degree murder can continue his day parole, the Parole Board of Canada ruled on March 1, 2021.

Erling (Earl) Edward Waskewitch, now 55, was sentenced in February 2001 to life in prison with no chance of parole for 16 years for the murder of 15-year-old Priscilla Rose Horse on Onion Lake Cree Nation.

The parole board’s report said that on Sept. 12, 1997, Priscilla Horse went to Waskewitch’s home on Onion Lake Cree Nation to get cigarettes. After speaking with her, Waskewitch was seen leaving the residence with her but returned alone about two-and-a-half hours later.

The teen’s body was found a month later on Oct. 17, 1997, in bushes on Onion Lake not far from Waskewitch’s home. The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix reported that when RCMP officers searched the area in October 1997, the officers could see Waskewitch watching them.

The cause of Horse’s death was determined to be strangulation secondary to suffocation. A tank top was tightly tied to her neck and stuffed in her mouth, according to the parole board report. The victim’s clothing had been removed from her lower body and her mid-section and breasts were exposed.

“You were identified as a suspect due to witness reports and, during the investigation you admitted to killing the victim,” stated the parole board’s report.

According to court records, Waskewitch confessed to the Battlefords RCMP in November 1997 after he was arrested and held in the cells.

“Police suspected that the victim was killed in response to her struggling during an attempted sexual assault," said the parole board. "However you denied sexually assaulting the victim and there was no forensic evidence to confirm the suspicions due to the deterioration of her body.”

The parole board report also noted that at the time of sentencing Waskewitch, the judge commented on the brutal manner of the victim’s death.

In February 2001 the Regina Leader-Post reported that Waskewitch told police two neighbours on Onion Lake Cree Nation made him choke the 15-year-old girl to death by casting a spell on him.

“You know, I’m not trying to shift blame, I know what I did. Part of it’s not my fault. Not physically, but spiritually, they (neighbours) were there.”

At the time of Waskewitch’s sentencing on Priscilla Horse’s murder, he was 35 and a father of seven. The Saskatoon Star Phoenix reported that Waskewitch “appeared to impress” the judge.

“The manner of death of Priscilla Horse was brutal, but the man who committed that murder is not a brutal person I have come to learn,” said Justice D. K. Krueger before sentencing Waskewitch.

During the trial, Priscilla’s sister, Eugena Horse, told the Star Phoenix that Priscilla knew Waskewitch.

“Horse described him as a nice, outgoing and polite man. She also said Waskewitch was a womanizer,” reported the Star Phoenix.

Previous convictions

The parole board’s report acknowledged Waskewitch’s previous criminal history with convictions for property, driving, breach of trust, assaults, kidnapping, attempted kidnapping and weapon related offences.

“You have a history of using physical violence, threats of violence and weapons, including firearms, during commission of your offending,” said the parole report.

“You had previously attempted to kidnap four women on the same date while pointing a firearm at them; you have admitted your intention was to sexually assault them.”

Waskewitch “sped around Lloydminster early on Oct. 28, 1988, using a shotgun to threaten people and try to get them into a truck he had stolen,” reported the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.

He forced a 44-year-old woman into his truck at gunpoint but she escaped, reported the Edmonton Journal.

Fifteen minutes later Waskewitch forced a 24-year-old woman into the truck at gunpoint and threatened to kill her, the Journal reported. She was able to escape when the vehicle stalled.

Waskewitch then stole another vehicle and drove to a nearby house in Lloydminster. Real Lacoursiere opened his back door to see Waskewitch pointing a loaded shotgun at his head, according to the Journal. Lacoursiere grabbed the gun from Waskewitch. He knocked the gun with his hand and moved his head to the side, just as Waskewitch fired a shot, reported the Journal. The bullet went through a window. Waskewitch fled.

Less than half an hour later Waskewitch attacked 60-year-old Edmonton Journal carrier Doreen Mayo, a widow and mother of a handicapped child. Waskewitch severely beat her and she was taken to hospital with a broken jaw and numerous broken bones, the Journal reported.

Less than 10 minutes later Waskewitch grabbed a 40-year-old woman by the throat, according to the Journal.

Laverna Handel testified in court that Waskewitch started choking her after she helped fill his truck at a local gas station. “He told me he was going to kill me if I didn’t get into the truck,” reported the Star-Phoenix.

She got away but claimed Waskewitch pursued her in the truck.

Waskewitch was arrested and after appearing in court he was sent to Edmonton for a psychiatric evaluation, the Star-Phoneix reported.

In September 1989 the Star-Phoenix reported that Waskewitch was found guilty in Vegreville Court of Queen’s Bench on 11 of 20 charges for the October 1988 crime spree. He was found guilty of kidnapping, two attempted kidnapping charges and several firearms offences. He was found not guilty on two attempted murder charges. He was sentenced to six years in prison.

Reintegrating into society

On March 1, 2021, a two-member panel of the parole board granted another six-month period of day parole for Waskewitch.

Waskewitch must live at a halfway house, which wasn’t publicly identified, and abide by numerous conditions. The conditions include that he must immediately report all intimate, sexual and non-sexual relationships and friendships with females, not enter Onion Lake Cree Nation without prior written permission from his parole officer, avoid sex trade workers, only have one mobile device and one SIM card, not to consume alcohol or non-prescription drugs, and not to directly or indirectly contact the family of the deceased victim.

“The victims and their family, and your community, have the right to be free from any unwanted contact from you,” stated the parole board’s decision.

“The emotional and psychological harm your actions caused the victim’s family has been enduring,” said the report. “They have strongly opposed your release to the community and fear re-victimization from you.”

Previous parole revoked

The parole board said Waskewitch’s history under community supervision isn’t without concern as he incurred suspensions and parole revocations on his prior and current sentence, which speaks to a poor community supervision history.

While under parole supervision, he drove while disqualified, missed appointments with his parole officer, became intoxicated, and incurred new criminal charges. These behaviours resulted in suspensions and ultimately his parole being revoked.

In December 2016, while on day parole, Waskewitch breached conditions by making sexual advances towards a cognitively challenged 18-year-old.

He also utilized sex trade workers while on day parole in 2016.

“Based on your criminal history this type of high risk activity would place females unaware of your history in a vulnerable position,” stated the report.

Waskewitch was granted day parole again in November 2019 for six months. In February 2020 he breached his conditions by attending a birthday party and taking a photo of himself with a woman and her teenage daughter. His case management team had concerns that the teenage daughter was similar to Waskewitch’s “victim pool.”

Also in 2020, he breached his conditions by becoming involved sexually with a woman at her residence who had a professional conflict with him. His parole was suspended but later the suspension was cancelled and he was given a reprimand. The parole board continued his day parole in August 2020.

The report revealed that the Spousal Assault Risk Assessment (SARA) assessed Waskewitch as a "high risk for future violence against an intimate partner."

Another psychological assessment concluded Waskewitch was a "moderate risk for violence," but the parole board said that is because he wasn't currently in a relationship.

Risk ‘manageable,’ says parole board

The board determined Waskewitch’s risk is manageable. Waskewitch obtained employment right away and is considered a valued employee.

The panel noted Waskewitch has completed a number of courses and programs since his incarceration to deal with childhood trauma and his fear of authority figures.

They said he is reconnecting with his culture by participating in a drumming/singing group.

In October and November 2020, Waskewitch rented a vehicle and was allowed to travel to the woods to collect feathers and conduct a pipe ceremony. In December 2020 he bought a used vehicle. Waskewitch, however, is not permitted to have women in his vehicle.

Waskewitch also doesn’t have permission for overnight privileges but the parole board anticipates he will have opportunities to spend time with his Indigenous peers and elders on overnight fasts and attending Camp Potlach this fall.

The parole board took Waskewitch’s Indigenous social history into consideration.

“The Board acknowledges that that your experiences are reflective of outcomes experienced by many indigenous peoples as a result of government policies designed to erode culture and assimilate indigenous peoples into the mainstream Canadian society. The board also recognizes that these assimilation policies resulted in a loss of connection to family, culture and community for many indigenous peoples and these connections serve as protective factors against crime.”

The report noted that both Waskewitch and his family members attended residential school and he reported that his parents lacked the proper parenting skills due to their experiences.

“You have reported your father was a strict disciplinarian and that you suffered sexual abuse by family members while attending residential day school,” said the report. “You have also disclosed a childhood incident in which you witnessed infidelity on the part of a family member; this has led to your unfounded suspicions of women you are involved with intimately."

The report also stated that Waskewitch had little exposure to his culture during his childhood and struggles with Indigenous teachings.

Overall, the board said it finds that Waskewitch will not present an undue risk to society through day parole.