SASKATOON — A woman accused of faking her death and that of her son before crossing the border into the United States has pleaded not guilty to the charges she faces in Canada.
“My plea is not guilty, your honour,” Dawn Walker, who appeared by phone, told Saskatoon provincial court on Thursday.
Earlier this week, a lawyer for Walker indicated she intends to have a judge-alone trial and waived her right to a preliminary hearing. A judge also recently changed a ban allowing for Walker’s name to be published.
Walker and her seven-year-old child were reported missing in July after her pickup truck was found near a river at a park south of Saskatoon.
Some people feared Walker and the boy had drowned and there was a missing persons investigation.
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, where Walker worked as its chief executive officer, organized a vigil and walks through the park to raise awareness about the disappearance. Walker, who is from Okanese First Nation, is also a well-known author.
Two weeks after the disappearance, she and her son were found by U.S. authorities in Oregon City, Ore. Walker was transferred back to Saskatchewan after waiving a formal extradition process.
Court documents filed in the U.S. allege the woman “thoughtfully planned and engaged in an elaborate ruse in which she faked her death and that of her son.”
Walker’s lawyers and relatives have alleged she was a victim of domestic violence. The child’s father has said he would never hurt her or the boy.
Saskatoon police have said any previous allegations made by Walker were thoroughly investigated and did not lead to charges.
In a statement through a lawyer last year after her arrest, Walker said she “was left with no choice.”
Walker faces nine charges, including public mischief, child abduction, forging a passport, possessing forged documents, identity theft and identity fraud.
She also faces two charges in the U.S. related to identity fraud for allegedly crossing the border with fake identification.
She was granted bail in September and is to next appear in court Feb. 16.