Woman, man charged in 2012 killings
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.