Charges laid in decades-old murders of Kathryn-Mary Herbert and Monica Jack

Police announce at press conference in Surrey that Garry Handlen has been charged with the deaths of the Abbotsford and Merritt girls

Katryn-Mary Herbert

Katryn-Mary Herbert

Police announced on Monday afternoon that a 67-year-old Ontario man has been charged with the murders of two young girls more than 30 years ago, including one from the former municipality of Matsqui.

At a press conference in Surrey, police said Garry Taylor Handlen, 67, was arrested Friday in Surrey and charged with the first-degree murders of Kathryn-Mary Herbert, 11, of Matsqui (which later amalgamated with Abbotsford) in 1975 and Monica Jack, 12, of Merritt in 1978.

Kathryn-Mary was last seen in the area of Townline and Marshall roads on Sept. 24, 1975 – one day before her mother’s birthday – after a friend, whom she ran into while walking home from another friend’s, doubled her part-way home on his bicycle and dropped her off.

She never returned home, and her partially decomposed body was found on Nov. 17 of that year near Harris Road in an undeveloped area of the Matsqui First Nations.

Her body was hidden under a sheet of plywood taken from the wall of an old outhouse.

Her skull was fractured and her jaw was broken. The autopsy was not able to confirm whether Kathryn-Mary had been sexually assaulted, although her underwear, shoes and socks were missing.

Monica (in photo at left) vanished on May 6, 1978 – 13 days before her 13th birthday – while riding her bike along Highway 5A just south of Quilchena near the Nicola Ranch in Merritt, B.C.

Her remains were found on nearby Swakum Mountain in June 1995.

Police at the press conference said Handlen was recently living in Ontario, but was a resident of the Lower Mainland at the time of the murders. He also travelled extensively around B.C. and Alberta at the time.

Police said Handlen was a “person of interest” early in the investigation, but it has taken this long to gather enough evidence to support first-degree murder charges.

They confirmed that he did have a criminal record, although they wouldn’t expand further on his background or on the evidence that led investigators to him as a suspect.

Police said they have not found evidence to link him to the similar murder of another Abbotsford girl – Theresa Hildebrant, 15, who went missing on May 24, 1976 and whose remains were found four years later in a shallow grave near Downes and Mt. Lehman roads, not far from her Sun Vally Crescent home.

She had been beaten to death.

RCMP Supt. Ward Lymburner said the investigations into Kathryn-Mary’s and Monica’s murders involved numerous police agencies and investigators over the years.

He said Monica’s murder became part of the Project E-PANA investigation in 2007 looking into 18 unsolved cases – 13 homicides and five missing-women cases – of females last seen within a mile from highways 16, 97 and 5 in B.C.

Bobby Jack Fowler was named as a suspect in three of those cases – called the Highway of Tears murders – and died in a U.S. prison in September 2012. Most of the other cases remain unsolved.

Kathryn-Mary’s murder was turned over in 2005 to the Provincial Unsolved Homicide Unit, which included involvement by the Abbotsford Police Department.

Deputy Chief Rick Lucy, speaking at the press conference, said the murder was “heinous and horrific.”

“It deeply impacted citizens and investigators alike, but obviously was most devastating to family and friends,” he said.

Lucy said Kathryn-Mary’s mom, Shari Greer, challenged and inspired police over the years and “relentlessly pursued justice for her daughter.”

Both moms spoke at the press conference, fondly remembering their daughters and thanking investigators for their perseverance in arresting and charging a suspect.

Monica’s mom, Madeline Lanaro, said her daughter was a beautiful little girl who was always happy and had a “tingly laugh.” She said she was happy and relieved that someone had been charged with Monica’s murder.

Greer said her daughter was “loving, kind and compassionate,” and had been deprived of the many dreams she had wanted to achieve.

“These two little girls – Monica and Kathryn-Mary – made a difference in this world while they were here. Garry Handlen couldn’t take that away,” she said.

Handlen, who remains in custody, is next scheduled to appear Dec. 8 in Abbotsford provincial court.

Police released a photo of Handlen as he would have appeared at the time of the murders, and they have asked for the public’s help with any additional information about him or the disappearance of Kathryn-Mary and Monica.

Those with information are asked to contact the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team tip line at 1-877-543-4822.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Posted

Chilliwack Fire Department on scene at a house fire on Boundary Road and No. 4 Road on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (David Seltenrich/ Facebook)
Fire crews respond to house fire on border of Chilliwack and Abbotsford

Flames, dark smoke reported coming from front of house when crews arrived

Brandon Hobbs (turquoise shirt), brother of missing Abbotsford man Adam Hobbs, gathers with other family and friends to distribute posters in Chilliwack on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Search efforts expand to Chilliwack and beyond for missing Abbotsford man

Family, friends put up posters in Chilliwack, Agassiz, Hope for missing 22-year-old Adam Hobbs

AHL president and CEO Scott Howson believes the new Abbotsford franchise is off to a strong early start. (AHL photo)
AHL president: ‘Tremendous success’ selling season ticket deposits for Abbotsford franchise

President and CEO Scott Howson optimistic about new Vancouver Canucks affiliate in Abbotsford

Stock photo by LEEROY Agency from Pixabay
Drop-in vaccination clinics slated in Abbotsford for construction workers

Among three sites in Lower Mainland holding no-appointment clinics in June and July

A CH-149 Cormorant from 442 Transport and Rescue Squadron out of CFB Comox on a training exercise in Chilliwack on June 16, 2021. (William Snow photo)
VIDEO: Military search and rescue training in Chilliwack Wednesday

CH-149 Cormorant and CC-115 Buffalo from CFB Comox participated in downed aircraft rescue simulation

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

Helen Austin performing with Trent Freeman at the 2018 Vancouver Island MusicFest. Austin is one of the many performers listed for the 2021 event.
Vancouver Island MusicFest goes virtual for 2021

Black Press to stream 25 hours of programming July 9-11

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

BC Green Party leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced a petition to the provincial legislature on Thursday calling for the end of old-growth logging in the province. (File photo)
BC Green leader Furstenau introduces old-growth logging petition

Party calls for the end of old-growth logging as protests in Fairy Creek continue

Most Read