December 2, 2014 4:16 pm
Updated: December 3, 2014 12:29 am

Garry Taylor Handlen arrested in connection with two cold cases

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WATCH: Parents of two British Columbia girls have spent nearly 40 years wondering who murdered their daughters. But, there’s finally been an arrest and the man police have charged may be linked to other crimes. Robin Gill has the story.

RCMP have laid charges in connection with the disappearance of 12-year-old Monica Jack and 11-year-old Kathryn-Mary Herbert, who have been missing since the 1970s.

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Garry Taylor Handlen, 67, has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder. He was arrested on Friday in Surrey and is scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 8.

Jack was last seen riding her bike on May 6, 1978 near Nicola Lake. Her body was found in June 1995, north of Merritt.

Herbert disappeared in 1975 while heading to her Abbotsford home. A few months later her body was found on Matsqui First Nations property. In 2012, mother Shari Greer offered a $10,000 reward for information that would lead to an arrest.

The cases eventually landed on the desks of investigators from Project E-PANA, formed to look into the unsolved Highway of Tears cases, and the Provincial Unsolved Homicide Unit.

WATCH: New details about Garry Taylor Handlen’s past are emerging and police in other provinces are reopening old files. Catherine Urquhart reports.

Officers refused to provide specifics of what led to the breakthrough, saying they brought Handlen into custody without incident in Surrey, B.C., although he no longer lives in the province.

Supt. Ward Lymburner, the officer in charge of the special projects unit, said three decades of investigation by multiple police forces combined to pinpoint the same suspect.

He described Handlen as having travelled extensively through B.C. and Alberta at the time and released his photograph from that era, asking the public to come forward with tips if it jogs any memories. He said the man previously lived in Lower Mainland and has a criminal record.

“He was brought into the investigation as a suspect or person of interest in the investigation early on,” Lymburner said.

“It has taken us this long for us to gather the evidence needed to satisfy the courts to bring him forward on charges today.”

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Both mothers spoke of their loss at today’s press conference.

“No matter what happens and no matter what you do in your life, that hurt never goes away,” said Jack’s mother Madeline Lanaro.

“I will forever hear my heart break,” said Greer. “By the way, there is no such thing as a cold case to the families, nor is there closure,”

“I want you to know these little girls, Monica and Kathryn-Mary, made a difference in the world while they were here.”

-with files from Canadian Press

WATCH: 16×9’s “A Mother’s Grief”

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