Convicted killer Christopher Alexander Falconer, who was on parole when Amber Kirwan disappeared seven months ago, has been charged with kidnapping and first-degree murder of the 19-year-old, say police in New Glasgow, N.S.
Kirwan vanished last October after a night out with friends. Falconer, 29, was granted parole a year ago after serving time in prison for the second-degree murder of a cab driver in 1998.
"Amber's murder was a shocking and senseless tragedy that impacted an entire community. It shattered many people's sense of safety and security," New Glasgow police Chief Delaney Chisholm said at a news conference Thursday morning.
"I hope today's announcement of an arrest and charges will bring a sense of relief to the people of New Glasgow and the surrounding communities."
RCMP Supt. Darryl Beaton said Falconer and Kirwan did not know each other before she disappeared. But he said that does not mean this was a random act.
"The elements of a first-degree murder charge are planning and deliberation, so in that context I think you can read into that it's not entirely random," he said.
Police said a woman was also arrested Wednesday but released in the evening without charges. No other arrests are expected.
Remains found in wooded area
Falconer appeared in court briefly Thursday morning. He will remain in custody until his next court appearance on May 28.
Marjorie Kirwan, who lost her daughter months ago, said the charge against Falconer is a "bittersweet moment."
"At the end of the day, Amber's still gone," Kirwan said Wednesday night, adding that she always had faith in police. "It's just a matter of waiting and patience."
Kirwan, 19, left Dooly's pool hall in New Glasgow at about 1:30 a.m. on Oct. 9. Her friends said she was going to meet her boyfriend, Mason Campbell, at a convenience store nearby.
Campbell told police that she never showed up.
In a security video released by police, Kirwan is seen speaking with someone in a crowd of people. She then leaves the crowd and walks up the street alone.
Police and dozens of community members spent weeks searching the area for the young woman or any clue about her disappearance.
Parole revoked during probe
On Nov. 5, Kirwan's remains were found in a wooded area off Heathbell Road, about a half-hour drive from the pool hall.
Police ruled her death a homicide but didn't say how she was killed.
The weeks stretched on with no word of an arrest.
During the investigation, police would not confirm that Falconer — from Heathbell — was a suspect. But at the height of that investigation, Falconer was arrested for a parole violation.
According to National Parole Board documents, his parole was subsequently revoked because police considered him to be a "subject of interest" in a serious ongoing investigation.
"It likely did give the community some relief," Chisholm said Thursday, of Falconer's arrest in November.
"It also did give our investigators, surely, a sense that he was off the street and posed no further risk to them."
During the Kirwan investigation, police seized a car that neighbours said Falconer drove regularly.
They also searched a home and property rented by Falconer's stepsister, a few kilometres from where the body was found.
The 29-year-old man had been serving a life sentence after being convicted of second-degree murder in the death of a cab driver — Robert LeBlanc — who was killed in Heathbell in 1998.
Falconer was 15 years old at the time of the murder but was tried as an adult. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was granted full parole in May 2011.
Community reacts with relief
In releasing Falconer on full parole, the National Parole Board said he had adjusted well to a halfway house after he had been granted day parole in May 2009 and was attending counselling.
"You have adopted a healthy lifestyle, are gainfully employed, and have good community support," the board's decision said.
"You now have a better understanding of your risk factors and what needs to be done to manage your social integration effectively. The board is quite confident that you will continue in the right direction while on a more liberal release considering your current situation and your participation in counselling."
Sheena Dalton, a family friend of LeBlanc, said Falconer should not have been let out of prison.
"Justice was done wrong by both the LeBlancs and the Kirwans. It's not fair and it's not right," she told CBC News.
June MacLean, who lives in New Glasgow, said she hoped the charges would result in a sense of closure for Kirwan's family.
"Not knowing all this time, finally they got somebody charged," she said. "It is a relief."