RCMP have made an arrest in the cold case killing of a Manitoba teen.
The body of Heather Mallett, 14, was found in June 2011 on a trail in Wabowden, about 650 kilometres north of Winnipeg. Her older sister made the gruesome discovery, about 24 hours after Mallett had gone missing.
RCMP confirmed her death was a homicide but provided no other details.
This afternoon RCMP said a 19-year-old man has been arrested and charged with first-degree murder, indicating the killing was pre-meditated.
However, the man was a youth at the time of the alleged offence and therefore can’t be named under provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
He is being held in custody without bail and will make his next court appearance on Apr. 24 in Thompson.
"It’s been a long three years. We’ve been hoping for this day to come," said Mary Ann Kristjanson, Heather’s grandmother and guardian. She told the Free Press today that RCMP have been in constant communication with the family and advised them Wednesday of the long-awaited arrest.
"It’s bittersweet," said Kristjanson, who said they are not looking forward to re-living the tragedy through the legal process. "We’re trying to put her to rest."
Kristjanson confirmed the accused killer is known to the family and was long considered a suspect.
"I knew (an arrest) would eventually happen," she said.
Community members from Wabowden turned out en masse to look for Mallett. She was discovered near a trail in the community that wound between Wabowden's centre and a trailer park
"She was my little sister. I'm going to miss her, I love her," Kaynina Mallett, Heather's 18-year-old sister, told the Free Press at the time.
"It was just like something was calling me, like something led me to her."
Kristjanson said her granddaughter grappled with health issues like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). After the girl was born prematurely, Kristjanson had raised and loved her.
Heather's mother died in 2007, said Kristjanson.
"(Heather) was friendly. She had a few problems, like her health and that, but she coped," she said following the slaying. "She was a very special child."
Kristjanson said the girl had left the house late on a Wednesday afternoon. The grandmother started searching immediately when she didn't return home Wednesday night.
"I started phoning around and driving around looking for her," she said. "I stayed up all night."