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A man has been found guilty of murdering a 12-year-old girl in British Columbia over 40 years ago.
Jurors convicted him of the first-degree murder of Monica Jack, who was last seen by her mother riding a bike in Merritt in May 1978.
BC Supreme Court heard that Handlen told an undercover RCMP officer in November 2014 that he sexually assaulted and strangled Jack after abducting her from a highway pullout in the city.
Handlen’s defence team maintained throughout the 11-week trial that the confession was coerced.
A first−degree murder conviction carries an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.
In a hidden−camera video shown in court, Handlen told the crime boss of a so−called Mr. Big operation that he grabbed Jack, threw her bike in a lake and then drove her up a hill where he killed her.
Her remains were discovered 17 years later.
The nine−month undercover operation that began in Minden, Ont., in early 2014, involved a fictitious crime group that hired Handlen to do legal and illegal jobs, the trial heard.
Handlen was paid almost $12,000 by the gang that promised him a job as he was gaining favour with the boss, who told him in the video that police had DNA linking him to Jack’s murder but the crime could be pinned on someone else if he provided enough details.
Handlen told the supposed crime boss he also picked up an Indigenous girl and sexually assaulted her, then repeated at least half a dozen separate times that he strangled her before tossing her body behind a log and leaving the area.
"It’s a weight off my shoulder now, I’ve told you. So I’m not the only one that knows now," he tells the crime boss in the video.
Handlen’s defence lawyers told the jury their client was set up by the RCMP with inducements that had him believing he’d get his dream of a new truck and continue being part of a group he called a band of brothers.
However, the Crown said Handlen had no motivation to confess to a crime he didn’t commit and felt relief at having unburdened himself from a secret he’d carried for 36 years.
With files from Canadian Press