Thomas Svekla appeals murder conviction

By Clint Buehler

EDMONTON – Convicted murderer Thomas Svekla is appealing his conviction for the murder of sex trade worker Theresa Innes, 36.

Svekla, 40, has filed notice of appeal from the maximum security Edmonton Institution where he is serving a life sentence with no chance for parole for 17 years after being convicted of second degree murder.

He was also found guilty of offering an indignity to a human body.

He was acquitted on the same charges in the murder of Rachel Qinney, 19.

In his appeal, Svekla claims that Court of Queen’s Justice Sterling Sanderman erred in law when he ruled that post-offence conduct was capable of proving the necessary intent required for a murder conviction.

He claims the judge was wrong to admit similar-fact evidence given by two women. A former high school girlfriend testified Svekla choked her and tried to sexually assault her. (She could not be identified because of her age when the incident occurred.)

Rebecca Kroetsch, another close high school friend of Vekla’s who visited him at the Edmonton remand centre after his arrest, had even more damning testimony. She said he told her the high school girl friend had been the first person he had hurt, “the first to see the bogeyman..”

She said her hour-long visit was a “bone-chilling” experience which left her convinced he was guilty of the charges . Although she said Svekla had been good to her in high school, in visiting him in jail she said she felt like Clarissa visiting Hannibal Lecter is Silence of the Lambs.

Svekla indicated in his notice of appeal that he might have further grounds stemming from the conviction, that he wanted to attend the appeal in person, and if successful, he did not want a trial by judge and jury.

He has been advised that he is required to include a transcript of the trial with his appeal documents, and that he should hire a lawyer to handle the appeal.

Transcripts of police interviews with Svekla reveal he was a suspect in six more such killings.

The six other women were Bernadette Ahenakew, Edna Bernard, Debbie Lake, Monique Pitre, Melissa Munch and Sylvia Ballantyne.

Police also suspected Svekla in the disappearances of Corrie Ottenbreit and Delores Brower.

He has not yet been charged in those eight deaths or disappearances. Meanwhile there have been more missing and murdered women in the Edmonton area since Svekla was taken into custody.

All of the 10 victims are believed to have been drug addicts and involved in the sex trade.

In the Innes case, court was told that Svekla killed Innes in High Level in northern Alberta, bound her body in wire, wrapped it and transported it in a hockey bag to his sister’s home in Fort Saskatchewan, just outside of Edmonton. He told her the bag contained compost worms.

When the sister became suspicious and reached into the bag and felt limbs, she called police.

There was also testimony at Svekla’s trial that he may have kept Innes’s body in a freezer in his High Level apartment before transporting it to Edmonton.

In the Quinney case, Justice Sanderman said there was insufficient evidence to link Svekla to Quinney’s death despite the fact that he, in the company of another sex trade worker, found Quinney’s body in a field on the outskirts of Edmonton.