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.

Just Posted

Climate change panel hosted at North Island Secondary School

The panel focused on combating fear, finding solutions, and encouraging youth.

People’s Party of Canada plan to have a candidate in the North Island-Powell River riding

Elections Canada formally recognized the North Island—Powell River PPC Association

NVIATS takes over NIEFS space in Thunderbird Mall

“We were approached by NIEFS, they’re going to be downsizing”

Port Hardy Reigns compete in Nanaimo at Island Championships

“We are very fortunate to have this opportunity for our youth in Port Hardy”

Derina Harvey Band – Heartfelt, Energetic, Celtic rock comes to Port Hardy

Front-woman Derina Harvey leads this Celtic-rock act, who offer an authentic east-coast experience.

VIDEO: Large dust devil swirls through town in B.C.’s interior

Residents look on as column climbs about 90 feet into the air

Blaine, Wash. inn owner, charged with smuggling people into B.C., granted bail

Robert Joseph Boule ordered to turn away anyone indicating a plan to enter Canada illegally

RCMP arrest B.C. man following threatening Vaisakhi Facebook post

Post made reference to pressure cooker bomb at massive Surrey parade

Second dump site of Dungeness crab discovered in northern B.C.

DFO confident new site related to larger April 2 dump

Northern B.C. high school student reaches 100,000 followers on YouTube

Voice actor, animator, Jericho Fortune has more than 30-million views on his channel GTAGAMER222

University mourns student who died in B.C. canoeing accident

Andrew Milner, 19, was in his second year with the University of Calgary’s basketball program

B.C. woman pleads for people to stop stealing daffodils meant to honour cancer victims

Cynthia Bentley honours memory of those lost to cancer by planting 100 daffodils each year

Canfor temporarily shutting down lumber mills across B.C.

Low lumber prices and the high cost of fibre are the cause of curtailment, according to the company

Most Read