A 49-year-old man from Elmvale, Ont., has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of two men who disappeared from the Barrie, Ont., area more than 26 years ago.
Ontario police said 36-year-old Norman Whalley of B.C., and 21-year-old Grant Ayerst of Barrie, both arrived in Ontario from B.C. in September 1991 to carry out an illicit drug transaction when both men went missing.
Police said they were last seen leaving a Toronto hotel on Sept. 11, 1991, and arrived in Barrie to carry out the transaction when the men met with foul play.
In a video vignette of unsolved murder and missing persons cases, called “Simcoe County Case Files” and launched on social media last year, Barrie police say they believe that known associates of Ayerst were involved in a sequence of events that led to their disappearance.
During a press conference in Barrie on Wednesday, police announced that 49-year-old Michael Guido Gerald was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of the two men.
Investigators said the bodies of both men have yet to be recovered.
The family of Grant Ayerst released a statement on Wednesday saying they have remained positive during the investigation and have refused to allow the disappearance to destroy their lives.
“We chose to keep the good memories alive, hope to move us forward and always anticipated the day we would have some resolution to this tragedy which disrupted our lives over 26 years ago. Patience, karma and hope have paid off,” the statement read.
Police said they credited the unsolved murder and missing persons campaign launched last year as a contributing factor in the arrest.
“There’s been a number of pieces of information that have come to light from public as a result of this initiative and it has assisted not only in this investigation but several of our investigations,” OPP Det. Supt. Ken Leppert said on Wednesday.
“I’m not prepared to disclose the details of each of those tips at this time but I would like to thank the public for their assistance and I would like to thank the investigators for their innovation with respects to this approach through social media and had it not been for both the public and innovative approach, we would not have that additional information and evidence.”
The accused appeared in court on April 16 and was remanded into custody.