A Canadian woman faked her and her son's death to escape a custody battle, authorities say. Dawn Walker allegedly attempted to flee to Oregon, where she and her child were discovered last week. Walker contends she had no choice, but experts say she has "years of legal issues ahead." Read on to find out how the bizarre disappearance unfolded last week, and why Dawn Walker now faces serious criminal charges in two countries.
Originally, Police Thought The Pair Had Drowned
Dawn Walker, 48, was believed to have perished in a fishing accident, along with her seven-year-old son. On July 23, a passer-by alerted police to a blanket, fishing pole and purse left by the river in Chief Whitecap Park in Saskatoon, Canada. When Walker's truck was found nearby, investigators searched the park by air, land, and water. A $10,000 reward for information was announced. But authorities soon discovered Walker had fled across the border into Oregon with the child.
Found in Airbnb Using False Identity
On Aug. 5, Walker and her son were found in Oregon City, Oregon, where Walker had been using a friend's identity. Detectives traced Walker's Chevrolet Equinox to an Airbnb. When Walker was arrested, she reportedly told officers her son "doesn't want to be with his father." She has been detained in the U.S. Her son was reunited with his biological father last weekend, authorities said. The man has so far refused to comment.
Walker Left Behind Notes
Police said Walker wrote and left behind two notes about her plan that aided in their investigation.
One was a handwritten list that read: "1. Negative COVID test 2. Fishing Rod 3. Phone (dead) 4. Vehicle/bike 5. Dye hair 6. Cover tattoo."'
Another note revealed steps she planned to take, including: "Park car (black wig), ditch phone in water, ditch vehicle by bridge and find nearest border." Police say they seized items from Walker that included a cellphone, a large amount of Canadian currency, credit cards, and ID.
Walker Faces "Serious" Charges in U.S., Canada
On Monday, Walker appeared in U.S. federal court in Oregon, where she was charged with aggravated identity theft and possession of false documents of identification.
"The elaborate scheme she engaged in was designed for one purpose—to avoid the law and not be found," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Kerin. "This was not a spur of the moment event. The defendant put time and a lot of effort into planning her crime."
Walker made another court appearance on Wednesday and was ordered to be detained as a flight risk. In addition to the charges in American court, the Saskatoon Police Service has charged Walker with abduction in contravention of a custody order and public mischief.
"Years of Legal Issues Ahead," Says Lawyer
"These are not just simple misdemeanor summary charges. These are serious felony offenses," American immigration lawyer Len Saunders told CTV News on Wednesday night.
"She has federal criminal charges," Saunders added. "Then after the criminal charges are dealt with by the U.S. government, she'll then have immigration charges for false entry into the United States. And then when she does eventually leave the U.S., I'm assuming the government is going to want to extradite her to Canada. She's going to face, I believe, criminal charges in Canada for obtaining false Canadian passports. I think she has years of legal issues ahead of her now."
"I Feared For My Safety"
On Wednesday, CTV News published a statement from Walker provided by her attorney. "I left Saskatoon because I feared for my safety and that of my son," said Walker. "I love my son so very much. He is my only child, and I would do absolutely anything for him."
She added: "I ask for support to return to Canada to my Treaty lands where I will continue in my pursuit for justice for myself and my son. More will come out as I further tell my story upon my return."
Court documents indicate that Walker and her child's father have been engaged in a long custody battle. Walker had previously made allegations of domestic violence against the man. Authorities investigated them and no charges were brought, CTV News said.
Walker a Well-Known Local Figure
Walker is described by CBC News as a leader in her local indigenous community. She ran in the 2021 federal election as a Liberal Party candidate. A comedian and author of critically acclaimed books such as The Prairie Chicken Dance Tour, Walker was nominated for a national literary humor award this week.