Woman, man charged in 2012 killings

Cape Breton Post - - Province -

A hefty re­ward helped crack the cold-case deaths of two Hal­i­fax men at a burned-out camp out­side the city, RCMP said Thurs­day.

Elmer Percy Hig­gins, 65, and Karen Marie Hig­gins, 49, face charges of sec­ond-de­gree mur­der and re­lated firearms of­fences and were to ap­pear Thurs­day in Dart­mouth provin­cial court.

The re­mains of Matthew Al­lan Hebb, 22, and 59-year-old Earle Clay­ton Ste­wart, both from Spry­field, were found af­ter fire­fight­ers re­sponded to a fire at the camp off High­way 374 near Sheet Har­bour in De­cem­ber 2012.

The homi­cides had stymied po­lice over the years as they searched for ev­i­dence, and they is­sued sev­eral pub­lic ap­peals for help — author­i­ties even of­fered a $150,000 re­ward.

“To­day’s charges rep­re­sent over four years of tire­less in­ves­tiga­tive work .... Th­ese in­ves­ti­ga­tors, they’ve worked around the clock,’’ Insp. Trudy Ban­gloy said. “Our in­ves­ti­ga­tors per­se­vered and in the end it is our hope that we find an­swers for the Hebb and Ste­wart fam­i­lies.’’

In De­cem­ber 2015, po­lice divers con­ducted searches in ponds and lakes near the crime scene around Sheet Har­bour.

The Moun­ties said they ar­rested two peo­ple in De­cem­ber 2012 and again in March 2017, but they were re­leased with­out charges in both in­stances.

The pair was ar­rested for a third time Wed­nes­day at a home in Hal­i­fax with­out in­ci­dent.

“There may be enough ev­i­dence to ar­rest, but some­times there’s not enough ev­i­dence to charge,’’ Ban­gloy ex­plained to re­porters.

“When there’s a new charge, there’s al­ways new in­for­ma­tion that comes for­ward in order to make that ar­rest. What I can tell you is (Wed­nes­day’s) ar­rest, we had new ev­i­dence that al­lowed us to lay those charges.’’

Cpl. Dal Hutchin­son, an RCMP spokesman, de­clined to de­scribe the na­ture of the ev­i­dence that led to po­lice to the point where they could lay charges, say­ing it would be pre­sented in court.

How­ever, he and Ban­gloy did con­firm that po­lice used in­for­ma­tion ob­tained as a re­sult of the Depart­ment of Jus­tice’s re­wards for ma­jor un­solved crimes pro­gram.

“The in­for­ma­tion . . . re­sulted in po­lice lay­ing charges,’’ Hutchin­son said.

Un­der the pro­gram, the re­ward money is only payable if the in­for­ma­tion leads to a con­vic­tion.

Po­lice would not dis­cuss the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two ac­cused, but said they knew the vic­tims.

In Jan­uary 2016, when the re­ward was first of­fered, then­provin­cial jus­tice min­is­ter Di­ana Whalen is­sued a state­ment say­ing the vic­tims’ fam­i­lies de­served an­swers.

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