A photo of Garry Taylor Handlen, who has been charged in relation to the homicides of Kathryn-Mary Herbert who was 11-years-old when she was murdered in 1975 in Abbotsford, B.C., and Monica Jack, who was 12-years-old when she was murdered near Merritt in 1978, is displayed during a news conference in Surrey, B.C., on Monday December 1, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

BREAKING: Jury finds man accused of killing B.C. girl, 12, guilty

Twelve-year-old Monica Jack disappeared in May 1978 while riding her bike along a highway in Merritt, B.C.

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.

READ MORE: Trial set for man charged with decades-old murder of Monica Jack

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.

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vernon rink into win column at BC Senior Curling finals

Vernon Curling Club hosting the province’s top senior curlers; finals set for Sunday at 10 a.m.

Vernon schools hosting OK Valley hoops finals

Senior Boys AA at Fulton; Senior Boys AAA at Vernon Secondary

Vernon bowlers dominate zones at home

Five teams from Lincoln Lanes advance to provincial YBC finals in Vernon/Kelowna

Vernon sewing instructor teaches flawless fitting

Clothes for real curves made possible with Dawne Whelpley’s workshops

Vernon-area duo still awaiting trial for animal abuse

Trial date expected to be set within the next three weeks

Okanagan divers ready to take on 2020 B.C. Winter Games

The athletes have been training four days a week

Galchenyuk nets shootout winner as Wild edge Canucks 4-3

Vancouver tied with Calgary for second spot in NHL’s Pacific Division

B.C.’s soda drink tax will help kids lose weight, improve health, says doctor

Dr. Tom Warshawski says studies show sugary drinks contribute to obesity

A&W employees in Ladysmith get all-inclusive vacation for 10 years of service

Kelly Frenchy, Katherine Aleck, and Muriel Jack are headed on all-expenses-paid vacations

B.C. mom’s complaint about ‘R word’ in children’s ministry email sparks review

In 2020, the ‘R’ word shouldn’t be used, Sue Robins says

Summerland transgender female follows her passion for hockey

“As soon as you put the jersey on, nothing underneath it matters.You are just a hockey player.”

B.C., federal ministers plead for meeting Wet’suwet’en dissidents

Scott Fraser, Carolyn Bennett says they can be in Smithers Thursday

EDITORIAL: Revisiting cannabis regulations

Recent retail license application has brought up concerns about present policy in Summerland

Guidelines regulate Summerland cannabis stores

The municipality’s policy, 300.6 establishes the 50-metre buffer zone around schools and parks

Most Read