UPDATE: Charges laid in B.C. cold case

WATCH ABOVE: 16×9’s “A Mother’s Grief”

It took 39 years, but RCMP officers announced an arrest has been made in the 1975 murder of 11 year old Kathryn-Mary Herbert. Garry Handlen, 67, was arrested on Friday, November 29 in Surrey, BC and charged with first degree murder.

Kathryn-Mary went missing on September 24, 1975 in the small community of Matsqui, British Columbia. Her body was found two months later in a nearby wooded area. Charges were never laid. But Handlen on was a person of interest and known to the family.

Additional charges were laid in the 1978 murder of 12 year old Monica Jack in Merritt, BC. Hanlon’s next court appearance will be on December 8 in Abbotsford, BC.

“This is a moment I have been waiting for 39 years and finally it is here,” Kathyrn-Mary Herbert’s mother Shari Greer said at a press conference. “I promised (Kathryn-Mary) at her gravesite, I wouldn’t give up.”

Story continues below advertisement

The RCMP is asking the public for their assistance in these cases and any information concerning Garry Handlen’s actions from 1975 onwards.

“16×9” profiled Shari Greer, Kathryn-Mary’s mother, and the case in 2013 in “A Mother’s Grief”. Never one to mince words, Shari questioned the work of the investigators and demanded they keep her daughter’s case alive.

Her speech is peppered with four letter words, and she is not afraid to give you a piece of her mind. Shari Greer is a mother on a mission for the truth.

“I know out there is somebody who knows,” says Greer. “I’ll keep pushing until it comes.”

Once a self-described wallflower, everything changed for Greer 37 years ago on September 24, 1975. That day, her daughter, Kathryn-Mary Herbert, didn’t come home from a friend’s house after school.

Kathryn-Mary was Greer’s only daughter. A typical eleven year old, she wrote in her diary, went to sleepovers and played with her four brothers.

She was last seen half a mile from her house, doubling on a friend’s bicycle in the small community of Matsqui, outside Abbotsford, British Columbia.

“I went and called everybody that she knew and there was nothing. Nobody had seen her after she had left,” Greer says. Then reality started to sink in. “It wasn’t until the next day that I started thinking not so good thoughts.”

Story continues below advertisement

Two months after she first went missing, Kathryn-Mary’s body was found on a nearby First Nations reserve. She had been killed by a number of blows to the head.

“Her little body was putrefied and rotten,” says Norm MacFarlane, one of the first investigators on the case with the Matsqui Police Department.

“This has haunted me for years,” says MacFarlane. “I just can’t forget it.”

MacFarlane scoured the street where Kathryn-Mary was last seen and searched the murder scene, but there were few clues to be found. The only information he turned up was reports of a man seated in a car close to where the young girl went missing. But there wasn’t enough evidence to make an arrest.

“It was just so frustrating,” says MacFarlane, “But you can’t convict on circumstantial evidence.”

Greer is no stranger to grief. In 1974 her nine year old son Donnie drowned, and in 1980 her eldest son Butch hanged himself, unable to cope with the murder of his sister. “You can’t bury your kids and not be insane”, says Greer. So far, she has buried three.

Over the years, the case passed through the hands of Matsqui and Abbotsford police investigators as well as the RCMP. Despite decades of frustration with no resolution, the murder of her daughter has remained the focal point of Shari Greer’s life.

Story continues below advertisement

Since 1975, she has been demanding answers from the police with constant phone calls, requesting information and holding vigils for her daughter.

There are 850 unsolved, active homicide investigations in BC, each one waiting to be solved. Greer is determined to make sure police do not forget about her daughter.

“People might have been tempted to try and go, you know, this case is too hard, let’s move on,” says Abbotsford Police Chief Bob Rich. “But how do you look her in the eye and say we’ve moved on? You can’t do that… [Kathryn-Mary] deserves to have her killer in jail.”

Almost 38 years later, in the hopes of moving the case forward, Chief Rich has pledged to assign extra resources to work with the RCMP.

But while Greer waits for the police to solve her daughter’s murder, she has turned her pain into something productive. She started the “Garden of Tears”, a retreat for other victims of violence. Every year people from around the world travel to her home and remember the ones they have lost.

In honour of her work with grief-stricken families, Greer was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal last year. But such reward comes at a cost.

“Every single day of my life I hear my heart break, you have no idea the sound it makes inside,” she says. “You know there’s no such thing as closure. Resolution, never closure.”