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Hello, it’s Jana here.

We are so proud to be able to share the first two episodes of our podcast, In Her Defence, released today. It’s about Helen Naslund, and her long fight for freedom.

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Early morning Tuesday, Globe reporter Jana G. Pruden waits to go on Real Talk with Ryan Jespersen.Jana Pruden/Jana Pruden

Please head over to listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

I vividly remember going to visit Helen in prison for the first time in the spring of 2022. The women’s prison is in west Edmonton, not very far from the famous West Edmonton Mall, nestled somewhat inconspicuously between the car dealerships and flooring stores that one finds on the edge of a city. There had been a late season blizzard that night, and everything was quiet and white.

On my drive, I repeatedly listened to The Fighter by Jenn Grant, a song which connected with me throughout my reporting on Helen’s story, and which would later become the theme song for the podcast.

Helen and I were both nervous, and our first interview was long and intense, stretching nearly four hours. You’ll hear some of that in Episode 2: Helen in Hell.

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Helen Naslund at the Edmonton Institution For Women, where she is serving a sentence for killing her abusive husband, Miles Naslund, in Edmonton on August 2, 2022.Amber Bracken/The Globe and Mail

In the weeks that followed, photojournalist Amber Bracken and I went to Holden, and met some of the people who are important in Helen’s life. In Episode 1: The Ticking Time Bomb, you’ll hear from Lawrence Weppler and Patricia Hogue, who own the Holden Hotel and Patti’s Place, and were friends with the Naslunds.

As a crime reporter, I’m used to people not wanting to talk. But even by those standards, I was struck by how difficult it was for people to open up. I understand. Nobody wants the attention, the questions, the hurt of digging into something so traumatic and painful. These were not easy interviews.

But Helen and everyone else you’ll hear from in these first episodes of In Her Defence did agree to speak – and then answered my questions with patience and candor.

In the midst of these difficult conversations, animals were a great stress reliever for all of us. At the Holden Hotel, we cuddled with Leah the dog.

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Lawrence and Patricia Hogue, with their yorkie Leah, at the Holden Hotel in Holden, Alberta on June 14, 2022.Amber Bracken/The Globe and Mail

At Sharon Heslop’s house, her cat, Zeus, did his best to command our attention by sprawling out on my notebook. We caught only a fleeting glimpse of Helen’s beloved felines Star and Jewel, who have been living with Sharon since Helen went to prison.

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Helen's beloved cats, Star and Jewel.Jana Pruden/Jana Pruden

At Corleen LeClercq’s farm, we spent time with her horses, her dogs running at our feet.

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Corleen LeClercq, Helen Naslund's friend and former neighbour, at home near Clive, Alberta on July 9, 2022.Amber Bracken/The Globe and Mail

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Corleen LeClercq took Helen barrel racing with her for a short time, until Miles put a stop to it.Amber Bracken/The Globe and Mail

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Photographer Amber Bracken, who recorded most of my interviews for this podcast, photographing Corleen LeClerq's horses.Jana Pruden/Jana Pruden

It is beautiful country out there, and I saw and felt so much kindness and care in those difficult conversations. And, I hope, some healing.

Thanks for reading – and listening. I can’t wait for you to hear Episode 3.


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