Sask. The woman who found her mother dead 30 years ago is still waiting for the killer to be caught after the charges are dropped.

Police say two masked men broke into Frances Wendland’s home in 1985 and killed her after locking her two daughters, ages seven and eight, in a basement bathroom.

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The daughter of a woman murdered 30 years ago still holds out hope for justice even after charges against one of the men accused in the case were dropped.

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“I’ll always have that glimmer of hope,” said Kerri Wendland, whose mother, Frances Wendland, was murdered inside a home in Rosthern in 1985.

Crown prosecutors dropped charges against Dennis Henry Hahn, one of the men accused of killing Frances, on Wednesday, a year after Hahn was charged and arrested.

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Hahn, 65, was arrested on July 10, 2015 in Surrey, BC, and charged with first-degree murder and unlawful confinement in connection with the murder of 43-year-old Wendland nearly 30 years earlier.

I’ll always have that ray of hope

Chris Murphy, Hahn’s attorney, praised the Crown’s decision to drop the charges, but was highly critical of the original arrest and charges.

“(Hahn) should not have spent the last 11 months of his life in custody,” Murphy said.

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Murphy said the only evidence linking Hahn to the murder was a statement from another man who had already been convicted of the crime. Furthermore, Murphy said that statement contradicted an earlier confession made by the same man.

Kerri Wendland was one of the daughters who found her mother gagged, bound and dead after two masked men broke into her home in 1985.

She said that all these years later, she is grateful that the RCMP is still investigating the case even though the charges against Hahn have been dropped.

Glen Berger / The StarPhoenix File Photo
Glen Berger / The StarPhoenix File Photo

“They weren’t 100 percent sure they could get a conviction. They deliberate a lot about that decision. I respect that,” she said.

A statement from the Saskatchewan Department of Justice said prosecutors evaluate and re-evaluate cases at each stage of the process.

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“After a thorough review of all the evidence, the Crown did not consider that there was a reasonable probability of conviction in this case,” spokesman Jordan Jackle said. “As such, a stay of proceedings has been entered.”

The murder occurred on December 14, 1985 in Rosthern. Investigators said at the time that Frances Wendland died of asphyxiation after being bound and gagged by two masked men.

Five years after the murder of Frances Wendland, a jury convicted Donald Lawrence Marlow of first degree murder for her death. His appeals to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal in 1991 and the Supreme Court of Canada in 1992 were dismissed.

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According to Murphy, Marlow said during his parole process that Hahn was one of the men who committed the murder.

During that time, Hahn was known to police and had served a 15-year sentence for the armed hijacking of a shipment of cigarettes.

“It’s my belief (Marlow) wanted to be in good favor,” Murphy said.

Marlow’s statement was the only evidence police had against Hahn when he was arrested and charged, Murphy said. He said police had tried a variety of techniques, including wiretapping and undercover agents, without any success.

Murphy also read a letter that he said was written by Marlow in prison in 1993, after he had exhausted his appeals, and sent to the lead investigator on the case.

They weren’t 100 percent sure they could get a conviction. They deliberate a lot about that decision. I respect that

The letter gave a full account of the night of the murder and contradicted the sequence of events used in Marlow’s conviction. Marlow said he was one of two men in the house, which Hahn was not, and that they never intended to kill Wendland, only to tie him up, Murphy said.

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Later in the letter, Marlow referred to Hahn being in prison with him.

Marlow’s letter, as read by Murphy, contained an offer to help convict Hahn of murder.

Murphy said he believes Hahn has grounds to file a civil suit for wrongful imprisonment.

“That would not be a frivolous lawsuit,” he said.

Once Hahn’s release is processed, he will be put on a Greyhound bus back to the Lower Mainland, Murphy said.

Kerri Wendland said that although Hahn will return to normal life, she believes RCMP officers are doing everything they can to ensure her mother’s killer is brought to justice.

“I believe in karma,” he said.

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