Canada

Family of B.C. man 'expecting' charge in 1979 murder

Sister of man charged Monday in 1979 sex-slaying of his brother's stepdaughter says family has been 'expecting' charges for a while.

A British Columbia man has been arrested and charged with the murder of a 12-year-old girl in the city of Penticton more than a quarter of a century ago.

Ernest John Gardiner, 68, was charged Monday with the 1979 murder of Susan Duff, the stepdaughter of his brother Fred.

Gardiner's sister, Gwen Griffen, said she always knew police considered her brother a suspect.

"We've been expecting it for a few years," she said of Monday's arrest.

"I feel for Susan's mother. She's had a rough time," Griffen added. "It puts my brother Fred, who is the stepfather of the little girl, in a bad position too."

The girl was last seen alive near a popular Skaha Lake beach at the south end of Penticton in September 1979.

Her body was found in the Carmi Hill area just east of the city limits by a hiker nearly a month later. She had been sexually assaulted before her death.

"Susan more or less asked to go to the store, so I said, 'Why not?' and that's the last I saw of her," her mother, Darlene Gardiner, recalled in an interview years after her daughter was killed.

Police say it was one of the most shocking crimes ever committed in the Okanagan, and has been a high priority for the RCMP's cold case squad over the past decade.

"Mr.Gardiner has been a suspect for some time, quite some time, actually," said Sgt. John Ward of the RCMP.

Gardiner also faces six counts of sexual assault in connection with a series of attacks on females that happened around the same time as Duff's death.