Man at centre of notorious trial dead at 78

A Red Deer man acquitted of murdering his estranged wife following a sensational jury trial almost 20 years ago has died.

A Red Deer man acquitted of murdering his estranged wife following a sensational jury trial almost 20 years ago has died.

Jacob Ralph Wanner, 78, died suddenly on April 23.

Wanner was acquitted of murdering Wilhelmina Wanner, 52, at the trial in June 1991 in Red Deer.

At the time it was only the third case in Alberta history that someone had been charged with murder although a body wasn’t found. The Wanner case was the first resulting in an acquittal.

Wilhelmina went missing Jan. 3, 1989. Her body has never been found.

Red Deer RCMP searched high and low for her, even tearing apart the Red Deer landfill at one point looking for some clue. They also searched parks, flare pits, oil dump sites and several isolated roads near the Wanner’s acreage about eight km west of Red Deer.

With no body police turned to psychics which was standard procedure used by RCMP as a last resort, court heard at the trial.

During the trial the jury heard the bathtub in Wilhelmina’s apartment was stained red with blood and a kitchen knife lay on the floor.

The Crown theorized at the time that Jacob Wanner killed his estranged wife because of anger, frustration and a possible loss of property through the separation.

However, the case failed to satisfy the jury who acquitted Wanner after 4.5 hours of deliberation.

In 1996 Wanner was granted full title to an 80-acre property which had been jointly held by both he and Wilhelmina.

Funeral service for Wanner was held Saturday in Red Deer.

jwilson@bprda.wpengine.com