Wrigley man makes first court appearance
Wrigley man makes first court appearance

Terry Halifax
Northern News Services

NNSL (July 09/99) - A man charged with the 1971 killing of a Wrigley woman appeared in Yellowknife court on Monday.

Angus John Ekenale, 54, is facing one charge of manslaughter and two counts of obstructing justice in a case that has eluded prosecutors and law enforcement for nearly 30 years.

Crown prosecutor Loretta Colton came armed with a consent order from the Attorney General of Canada to allow the new charge to be laid on the basis of old evidence that has been gathered over the course of the 28-year investigation.

But with only youth court duty counsel available to represent the defendant, Judge Robert Halifax chose to put the matter over until Ekenale could obtain proper legal counsel.

"This is way over my head," the young counsellor admitted to the judge.

It is alleged that in July of 1971, the accused and Elizabeth Rose Yendo attended a party in Wrigley and ended up in an argument near the river's edge.

The next day, Yendo's dead body was found a few meters downriver. Her death was at first ruled accidental.

In 1990, RCMP said the case was reopened when witnesses came forward. Yendo's body was exhumed and an autopsy was performed. The autopsy revealed the cause of death was not accidental.

Ekenale was charged with the murder of Yendo in 1991, but charges were dropped when witnesses refused to testify, saying they were threatened by the defendant.

The case again came before the court for a preliminary inquiry in 1992, but the lack of evidence prevented the case from being tried.

On the strength of an eyewitness, RCMP said the case was reopened in 1997. The witness led police to two more witnesses and the new charge of manslaughter against Ekenale was subsequently laid.

There is no statute of limitations in homicide cases, said Cpl. Les Bancroft of the RCMP's G division in Yellowknife. He said the manslaughter charge was sought because the crime is not believed to have been a planned homicide.

"First-degree murder is premeditated, it's planned," Bancroft said.

He said the Crown has a solid case against Ekenale and they feel confident a conviction will be reached.

"If we didn't feel confident, we wouldn't have laid the charge," he said.

Bancroft said he's been working on the Ekenale case since last fall, but that the investigation has been under way for more than a year and a half.

"There's a lot of work involved in a case like this," he said. "The way we approach it is a team effort -- it's not one individual leading the investigation."

Ekenale has been remanded in custody until his next court appearance on July 20. He also faces three charges of sexual assault, failure to attend court, and breach of an undertaking.