|May of 1999 marked the anniversary of two tragic deaths in Alberta. One was during a high school shooting in Taber, while the other was a murder of a country doctor in the quiet town of Fairview.
Dr. Doug Snider worked at the town clinic, slowly gearing towards retirement. His plans were cut short, however, when a colleague, Dr. Abe Cooper, killed him a day before his 60th birthday.
"It was a tremendous loss
my brother and I were very close," Sniders sister, Hazel Magnussen noted.
As Magnussen describes in her new book, A Doctors Calling: A Matter of Conscience, there was an ongoing tension between the two doctors. Looking for a resolution, Snider readily accepted Dr. Abe Coopers invitation to his office to draw out a plan. This was the last night Snider was seen alive.
Sniders murder led to a trial that brought out a plethora of theories surrounding the victim, Dr. Doug Snider. As Magnussen later noted, this bizarre turn of tables shocked her and her family.
"We were not allowed to talk about the offender," Magnussen said, illustrating that in her opinion, the defendant was not treated as she expected an accused murderer to be. "There wasnt enough consideration given to how much risk he posed."
It was her experience as a victim, as well as a duty to her deceased brother, that compelled Magnussen to write the book. Shortly before Sniders death, he told Magnussen his dream of writing a book about his experiences as a country doctor, but the plan was left unfinished.
"I wanted to commemorate his life as a doctor," she says.
So Magnussen decided to tell his story instead. "Ive gotten enough distance from the pain of it that I am able to write about it... and be objective as I write."
In her recently published book, she brought the vivid memories of the time of Sniders death back to life. In order to accurately portray the murder as it really happened, Magnussen said she conducted thorough research of the documents used in the trial, as well as excerpts from the days media coverage of the court proceedings.
"The experience of writing a book and having it published is a liberating one," she says, "because now, Doug finally has a voice."
While this book is supposed to serve as somewhat of a biography of Dr. Snider, its other goal is to inform the public of the behind-the-scenes of the trial.
"Ive learned over the years since my brother was murdered that victims of crime dont have a lot of say in how the criminal justice system works," Magnussen says. "I think the public needs to be aware of that."
Since, she has often been approached by the media as the familys representative on the subject of Sniders murder. She decided to take on the role of a victims ambassador to visit various conferences and share her story.
The story gains some humanity when told from Magnussens perspective. As his sister, she retells the doctors story in a view much different from that of the omnipotent media. Suddenly, it becomes a story of people. The reader is immersed into the lives of Magnussen and her family, as the casual worry over her brothers disappearance turns into a genuine fear for his well-being, and finally, his life. The intervening of real-life memories, backed by strong factual evidence work well together to present a complete and comprehensive look at the trial.
It is also yet another way of informing the public of how some victims of crime really feel about the justice system and the punishment of the perpetrator.
"Im not talking about lock them up and throw away the key," Magnussen says. "Sometimes people assume thats what victims think."
For more information, visit www.doctorscalling.ca.