Johnathon Pickett being led into court today. (David Shield, CBC)

Johnathon Robert Pickett, 42, the man charged with the 1990 murder of Joan Foulds, appeared in a Saskatoon courtroom this afternoon and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

Pickett will serve a mandatory life sentence. He will be eligible for parole in 15 years.

On July 22, 1990, police were called to a home at 415 Avenue D South, where they discovered Foulds' body. She had been sexually assaulted, beaten and stabbed. The former teacher, who had been working and volunteering at the Friendship Inn, was last seen two days earlier. She was 57 at the time of her death.

The police investigation included the collection of evidence from the scene and hundreds of interviews. Eventually, officers were able to identify a suspect and arrested Pickett.

A pure soul

In court, Foulds was remembered as an incredibly kind and giving person.

Joan Foulds

Joan Foulds (CBC)

"She was a marvellous lady," said Robin Bellamy, former Executive Director of the Friendship Inn. "We used to have to talk to her a number of times about being so giving...She would lend money out, or usually it was giving money away, because very seldom would she be paid back."

Friends of Foulds worry that generosity may have ultimately led to her death.

"She was very, very trusting. Too trusting," said friend Sheila Hawkins. "She took chances nobody else would take. She just didn't seem to have any kind of antenna out."

Fould's family said they're relieved the case is finally over.

"We will miss out on memories that might have been," said niece Therese Kahn. "We will miss out on being loved by a pure soul."

Cold case

The case had sat dormant for more than 20 years, until the Saskatoon Police Service Historical Case Unit re-opened the file. 

Even though previous lab tests hadn't been able to find any usable DNA, Sergeant Grant Little and his team re-submitted Foulds' clothing to the RCMP Forensic Lab.

The DNA matched Johnathon Robert Pickett, a Saskatoon man already serving a sentence for manslaughter.

According to the crown prosecutor, after that, an undercover police officer taped a conversation with Pickett implicating him in the death. He was arrested soon afterwards.

"I'm very grateful for Grant Little and to (prosecutor) Paul Goldstein," said Kahn. "I cannot tell you how grateful I am."

They were just words

Pickett apologized to the family, saying he was sorry for his actions. Foulds' family doesn't seem to be satisfied with the apology.

"They were just words," said niece Therese Kahn. "They weren't heartfelt words, they were words."

His lawyer told court Pickett had grown up in an abusive family, and his father died at an early age.

Pickett received a life sentence for the crime. He'll be able to apply for parole in 15 years