Trial set for man charged with decades-old murder of B.C. girl

Garry Handlen accused of killing Merritt girl; also charged with Abbotsford murder

A man accused of killing two B.C. girls in the 1970s, including one from Abbotsford, is slated to begin a jury trial on Monday for one of the murders.

Garry Handlen, 70, goes on trial in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver for the killing of Monica Jack, 12, of Merritt.

Handlen was charged in December 2014 with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Monica and Kathryn-Mary Herbert, 11, of Matsqui (which later amalgamated with Abbotsford).

But Dan McLaughlin, spokesman for the BC Prosecution Service, said the case involving Herbert was the subject of an earlier court application and will not be part of the proceedings that start on Monday.

He said the nature and results of that application are subject to a publication ban at this time, but the charge has not been stayed or dropped.

Monica vanished on May 6, 1978 while riding her bike along Highway 5A near the Nicola Ranch in Merritt, B.C. Her remains were found on nearby Swakum Mountain in June 1995.

Kathryn-Mary was last seen in the area of Townline and Marshall roads in Abbotsford on Sept. 24, 1975, and her remains were discovered on Nov. 17 of that year near Harris Road in an undeveloped area of Matsqui First Nations.

Her skull was fractured and her jaw was broken. The autopsy was not able to confirm whether she had been sexually assaulted.

Garry Handlen as he appeared at the time of the murders

At the time of his arrest, police said Handlen had been a “person of interest” early in the investigation, but it had taken decades to gather enough evidence to support first-degree murder charges.

Kathryn-Mary’s mother, Sherri Greer, was relentless over the years in seeking justice for her daughter’s killing. In 2012, she offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to a suspect.

She was a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.

Tragically, Greer died Nov. 16, 2016 after suffering a heart attack.

Monica’s mom, Madeline Lanaro, has described her daughter as a beautiful girl who was always happy and had a “tingly laugh.”

Handlen had been living in Minden, Ont. – a small town of about 5,500 people – for about 10 years before his arrest.

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