The family of an Ottawa man killed in 2012 say they're relieved Ontario's top court decided to lift the stay of a first-degree murder charge that allowed the accused killer to walk out of court a free man.

Fouad Nayel

Construction worker Fouad Nayel's body was found in a wooded area near Calabogie, Ont., months after he disappeared in June 2012. (CBC)

It's believed the controversial stay in November 2016 was the first handed down for a charge of first-degree murder in Ontario.

It came after the Supreme Court established guidelines for getting cases to trial in a reasonable amount of time in a ruling that's come to be known as the Jordan decision.

"This is the first time I actually laughed and smiled in over five years. It's like I had a thousand-pound weight on my back and it's just lifted," said Amine Nayel, the father of victim Fouad Nayel.

"He's going to stand trial and that's all we wanted in the first place.... Justice, that's what it means to me. If he's found innocent, so be it."

Former soldier charged

Fouad Nayel, a construction worker who grew up the Ottawa suburb of Barrhaven, was shot and killed in June 2012. The 28-year-old's remains were found five months later after a desperate search by his family and network of friends. 

His alleged killer, former Canadian Forces soldier Adam Picard, was charged with first-degree murder in December that year.

He had served in the Canadian military in Afghanistan and was studying to be a chef at Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa at the time of his arrest. He was also an acquaintance of Nayel.

Nearly four years later, on the day jury selection for the trial was to begin, the Nayel family was told that Picard's then lawyer, Lawrence Greenspon, had successfully argued the length of delay in getting the trial started — nearly 48 months — violated his client's constitutional right to a trial in a reasonable amount of time. ​

Adam Picard

Adam Picard was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Fouad Nayel in 2012, but walked out of court a free man in 2016 after an Ontario Superior Court judge ruled court delays violated his right to a timely trial. (CBC)

'I start to see a little justice'

Ontario Superior Court Justice Julianne Parfett stayed the first-degree murder charge on Nov. 15, 2016.

Greenspon relied on the 2016 Jordan decision to stay Picard's murder charge. It states that the time between charges being laid and the completion of a trial must not exceed 30 months for cases in Superior Court. The limit for cases in provincial court is 18 months.

Fouad Nayel's parents protested the decision outside the Ottawa courthouse.

His mother, Nicole Nayel, told CBC News at the time that "the scale tilted to one side. We're victims. We had no rights. We didn't get any rights at all from the system and I find it very, very unfair.

"They counted only how much he was unfairly in jail for four years. How about the victims that have been suffering for four years? We don't count? We don't count for nothing?"

But in an interview Thursday after the Appeal Court's decision became public, she said she "feels good."

"I start to see a little justice, a little hope. It's not bringing Fouad back, but I want to see justice done to whoever did this to my son. They deserve to pay."​

'This is a difficult case'

Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi appealed the stay of Picard's murder charge, and a hearing on the issue was held in Toronto in June.

In a decision dated Thursday, Justices Paul Rouleau, David Doherty and Sarah Pepall agreed the stay of the murder charge should be lifted and Picard should stand trial in Ontario Superior Court.

They ruled there was not enough time between the issuance of the Jordan decision and the beginning of the trial for the Crown to react and adapt.

"This is a difficult case," reads the decision, which Rouleau wrote.

"After weighing all of the factors, however, I am of the view that the appeal should be allowed. The delay above the presumptive Jordan ceiling is justified by the transitional exceptional circumstance."