The Canadian Press
A judge called Garry Handlen a sexual predator and sentenced him to life in prison for killing a 12-year-old girl in 1978 but moments later dismissed a case involving allegations that the man murdered another British Columbia girl three years earlier.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Austin Cullen said Handlen preyed on the vulnerable and weak to commit barbaric crimes and has already been convicted for other sexual assaults.
Handlen, 71, was found guilty by a jury earlier this month of the first-degree murder of Monica Jack, who disappeared while riding her bike in Merritt on May 6, 1978.
He confessed to an undercover officer in November 2014 that he abducted Jack, sexually assaulted and strangled her before burning her clothes and parts of her body.
“This particular crime is among the worst of its kind and you are among the worst of offenders,” Cullen told Handlen on Monday. “Your actions were certain to bring an innocent child terror and pain before her life was so savagely ended.”
Handlen had also been charged with the first-degree murder of 11-year Kathryn-Mary Herbert in or near Matsqui in 1975, but he pleaded not guilty to that crime after being sentenced for Jack’s murder.
Crown counsel Mark Sheardown told court no evidence would be presented in Herbert’s case.
Outside court, Crown spokesman Dan McLaughlin said Handlen had confessed to Herbert’s murder during the so-called Mr. Big operation in Minden, Ont., but the judge found that confession to be inadmissible.
He said the Crown will review its option regarding that ruling before deciding whether to take any further steps.
Just four months after Handlen murdered Jack, he was handed a 12-year sentence for sexually assaulting a another young woman.
A conviction of first-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence of 25 years without parole, although Cullen noted Handlen is eligible to apply for parole in 15 years through the so-called faint hope clause because he killed Jack before that law was eliminated.
Before he was sentenced, Jack’s family gave tearful victim-impact statements, saying they had hoped the happy girl would be found but decades without knowing what happened to her took an emotional toll.
Jack’s remains were discovered 17 years later on a mountain near where Handlen said he’d driven after he grabbed her from a highway pullout.
Glen Jack said he had already suffered the trauma of beatings in residential school before dealing with the loss of his sister, whose bike he found the day after she was last seen riding it.
“For 40 years I felt responsible for not being able to protect Monica,” he said through tears.
Jack said police questioned him for days while he was serving time in jail for break and enters, adding he had become a convenient suspect.
“I felt completely isolated and abandoned by my own family,” he said.
“Garry Handlen committed an act of unspeakable evil in the course of a few hours in May 1978.”
Jack’s sisters, including Elizabeth Kraus, spoke about how her murder has affected them.
Kraus said she was 11 when her “beautiful, sweet, kind and good” sister disappeared but that she felt satisfied justice had finally been done because Handlen has been handed a life sentence as her family is working to get on with their lives.
Outside court, Madeline Lanaro said her daughter’s disappearance caused a lot of pain for her entire family and the frustration and anger of not knowing what happened to her for decades caused tension among the whole community as people started to fear for their children.
“I survive by helping people,” she told court and later called on the public to support the families of those who are missing or murdered.