The lawyer for an Alberta man accused of killing a teenage girl in 1976 says the age of the case is causing a delay in getting access to evidence collected by prosecutors and police.
The judge agreed Tuesday to adjourn the matter until Jan. 9.
Ronald James Edwards, 74, of Sundre, Alta., is charged with non-capital murder — an offence in the Criminal Code at the time of Pauline Brazeau’s death.
Brazeau, a 16-year-old Métis mother from Saskatchewan, had relocated to Calgary with her infant daughter in the fall of 1975.
A few months later, on an early morning in January 1976, she was seen leaving a restaurant.
Her body was found hours later west of the city.
Edwards’ lawyer, Pawel Milczarek, asked for the adjournment at court in Cochrane, Alta., because he is still waiting for disclosure from the Crown.
“As you can imagine it’s a cold case from 1976 so, first of all, they probably have to put it into a format that they can disclose it in,” Milczarek told reporters outside court.
“I don’t know what we’re looking at whether there’s going to be audio recordings on cassette tape or what.”
He said typically in cases 10 years old or older, memories fade and there are questions about the initial investigation.
“So with the quality of the initial investigation and how they recorded interviews with people, how well they did that, (it’s) a big challenge for the Crown and it may be a challenge for us,” he said. “I don’t know yet.”
Brazeau’s family, including her daughter and grandchildren, were sitting in the front row of the courtroom. They declined to make any comment.
Police said the arrest came as a result of a partnership between the RCMP historical homicide unit and Calgary police’s cold case homicide unit.
Brazeau’s case was reopened in 2021 in an effort to reanalyze historical homicide investigations from the Calgary area dating back to the 1970s.
Alberta RCMP used genetic genealogy to help identify leads. In 2022, investigators sought the assistance of Othram Inc., a private lab in the United States.
They then worked with two genealogists from Convergence Investigative Genetic Genealogy, which led to the arrest.
Milczarek said the way the evidence was gathered is something that needs to be looked at.
“There’s obviously significant privacy concerns with this sort of genealogical DNA information gathering by the police and I look forward to seeing what sort of authorizations they had in place in order to get that,” he said.
Milczarek said his client is doing as well as anyone would be after being arrested for a major crime, but is looking forward to his day in court.
He said he will be looking at obtaining a bail hearing.
“He’s a longtime resident of the province. There’s no flight risk as far as I’m concerned and there will be a good bail plan put together to ensure,” he said.
“It’s important to remember that everyone is entitled to a presumption of evidence, including Mr. Edwards. He’s presumed innocent right now and he’s sitting in custody.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2023.
Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press