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Marshall Augustus Matier, 64, shown in an old newspaper clipping, was found stabbed to death behind the armories in downtown Kingston, Ont., on July 22, 1970. ((Kingston Police Force))

A murder charge has been laid against a Winnipeg man in a 39-year-old Ontario cold case.

Joseph Clifford Edward Langford, 66, was arrested at his Winnipeg home this week in the fatal stabbing of Marshall Augustus Matier, 64, also known as Teddy, police in Kingston, Ont., announced Wednesday. Langford was just 26 at the time of the slaying.

He was to appear in court in Kingston on Wednesday afternoon on a charge of non-capital murder, the 1970 equivalent of second-degree murder, police said.

Matier's body was found behind the military armouries near Montreal and Queen streets in downtown Kingston about 5:30 p.m. on July 22, 1970.

Police said he was stabbed a number of times and left to die alone in the street.

'We don't give up. And this is a case in point.'— Const. Mike Menor

Investigators said Matier was retired and lived close to where he was killed. He relied on social assistance and made extra money running errands in local pool halls and hotels.

Matier had no close relatives, but a niece and two grandnieces who knew him and lived near him were at the news conference Wednesday. The women said the arrest was an early Christmas present that meant a lot in terms of closure for the family.

"He had one of the biggest funerals — he was very special to a lot of people," said grandniece Simone Glendenning.

Cold case reopened last year

The case, which was reopened in September 2008, was the oldest of the 12 being investigated by the cold case unit of the Kingston police force. Investigators said they surprised Langford by knocking at his door without any warning.

Const. Mike Menor said the arrest is considered a victory for the squad.

"We don't give up," he said. "And this is a case in point … 40 years later we're still working at it, and we're still going to give it everything we have."

Manitoba police also played a key role in the investigation.

"They ended up doing background information for us," Menor said. "I talked to a couple of the investigators and they were ecstatic with the assistance that they got from Winnipeg police and the RCMP. It was second-to-none service."

Tenants kept eye on accused

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Apartment manager Rose Strickland says the keypad lock on Joseph Langford's door allows people to enter his suite quickly. She says Langford, charged Monday with a 1970 homicide in Kingston, Ont., has mental health problems and needed care. ((CBC))

Rose Strickland, the caretaker of the Winnipeg apartment block where Langford lived until his arrest, said she believes he has mental health problems.

Two people who lived across the hall cared for Langford, Strickland said. She said she believed they were paid by the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority to watch out for him. A health authority spokesperson would not confirm this, citing privacy laws.

Langford's apartment door was equipped with a keypad lock, which Strickland said would allow people to enter quickly and without keys.

Langford was a heavy smoker but a good tenant and took long walks, even in the extreme cold, by himself every day, she said.

"With me he was very quiet, polite," she said. "He liked to tease me about my name. … I'd take him up coffee, decorate his place for Christmas. Very grateful little old guy."