Man charged with killing 12-year-old B.C. girl found guilty of 1978 murder

VANCOUVER — A man accused of murdering a 12-year-old British Columbia girl over 40 years ago has been found guilty of first-degree murder.

Jurors began deliberating the fate of Garry Handlen on Tuesday after an 11-week trial in B.C. Supreme Court, where Monica Jack’s mother tearfully testified she last saw her daughter riding her bike on a sunny Saturday in May 1978.

Jack’s family members wept in the courtroom after the verdict was released on Thursday.

The trial heard that Handlen told an undercover RCMP officer in November 2014 that he sexually assaulted and strangled Jack after abducting her from a highway pullout in Merritt.

His his defence team had maintained the confession was coerced.

A first-degree murder conviction carries an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.

In a hidden-camera video shown in court, Handlen told the crime boss of a so-called Mr. Big operation that he grabbed Jack, threw her bike in a lake, forced the girl into the bathroom of his camper and drove up a rough hill where he killed her and burned her clothes and parts of her body.

Jack’s skull and some bones were found in the area 17 years later.

Her mother, Madeline Lanaro, told the trial she was driving her old Mustang home with her other children when she saw her daughter on the highway and that the girl waved at them.

“I honked and the kids yelled out, ‘Do you want a ride? And she said ‘No.’ “

Lanaro said her daughter had asked for permission to ride her new bike down the highway for the first time that day.

The nine-month undercover operation that began in Minden, Ont., in early 2014, involved a fictitious crime group that hired Handlen to do legal and illegal jobs such as loan sharking, the trial heard.

Handlen was paid almost $12,000 by the gang that promised him a middle-management job as he was gaining favour with the boss, who told him in the video that police had DNA linking him to Jack’s murder but the crime could be pinned on someone else if he provided enough details.

“The bottom line is, they got people that saw you and they got your DNA. That’s not good, Garry,” the crime boss tells him in a hotel room, in video shown to the jury.

Handlen was also told he would have to travel to British Columbia’s Interior with other members of the group to point out the spot where he said he’d abducted Jack so an ailing man taking the fall for him would have that information.

Handlen told the supposed crime boss he picked up an Indigenous girl and sexually assaulted her, then repeated at least half a dozen separate times that he strangled her before tossing her body behind a log and leaving the area.

“It’s a weight off my shoulder now, I’ve told you. So I’m not the only one that knows now,” he tells the crime boss in the video.

The boss tells him he could continue working for the group to repay the debt.

“I’m indebted for life now,” Handlen says, before repeatedly thanking him.

Handlen’s defence lawyers told the jury their client was set up by the RCMP with inducements that had him believing he’d get his dream of a new truck and continue being part of a group he called a band of brothers.

However, the Crown said Handlen had no motivation to confess to a crime he didn’t commit and felt relief at having unburdened himself from a secret he’d carried for 36 years.

Just Posted

Quebec wins ringette gold in overtime

End-to-end thriller played before more than 1,100 fans at Servus Arena

Alberta’s men and women speedskaters take silver in relay

Speedskaters credited hard training for Friday’s success

Photo radar unlikely to change in Red Deer

City participates in photo radar review

Trial into fatal Canada Day crash to continue

A trial into a fatal Canada Day 2016 crash failed to wrap… Continue reading

NEB gives Trans Mountain pipeline expansion its endorsement

CALGARY — The National Energy Board has endorsed an expansion of the… Continue reading

Fashion Fridays: Must-have wardrobe basics

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Local Sports: Tanner Butler: A gifted defenceman

RDC hockey Kings head coach Trevor Keeper had an idea of what… Continue reading

Stettler RCMP looking for hit-and-run driver

A white Dodge truck with a flat deck backed into a car… Continue reading

Seniors: Who owns your medical records?

Have you ever been asked to fill in authorization forms or pay… Continue reading

Ponoka man attacked by dogs issues plea to town council

Troubles with bylaw and handling of court case prompts presentation to council

‘Napalm Girl’ to discuss journey from hatred to forgiveness

Latest Herr Lecture to feature Kim Phuc Phan Thi at LMC

Rabbits saved from barn fire in Ponoka County

The Ponoka County East District Fire Department was called to a barn fire

Abel begins diving season on brink of record for most worlds medals

MONTREAL — Jennifer Abel could make history this summer in Gwangju, South… Continue reading

On eve of return to Toronto, former Raptors star DeRozan says he’s “moved on”

TORONTO — DeMar DeRozan has found closure. When the player once fondly… Continue reading

Most Read