A Quebec man was arrested on his way to work over the weekend and charged in the 2002 death of Adrienne McColl.
The 21-year-old’s body was found on Feb. 17 in the field of an Alberta rancher near Nanton, about 85 kilometres south of Calgary, 16 years ago.
Gatineau police arrested Stéphane Parent, 49, outside his home Saturday morning. He is now facing a second-degree murder charge in McColl’s death.
Parent’s lawyer, Jean-Pierre Rancourt, said his client appeared before a judge in Montreal by video conference and has been ordered to appear in Alberta provincial court.
Rancourt said Parent was taken to Calgary Monday for a Tuesday hearing and his client was “shocked” at the arrest, maintaining his innocence.
“It’s the second time that there was a warrant against him in that case,” said Rancourt. “Eight years ago they arrested him for the same thing, but they didn’t bring him to Calgary.”
He is expected to plead not guilty, ask for bail and has requested French services to assist him at court.
Supt. Garrett Woolsey, with the Southern Alberta District RCMP, said the charge is bittersweet.
“There’s two sides to it. One, you are thrilled that as a professional all your work has come to fruition and you now have a case you can take to trial, but you also know the other side. There is a family that has been deeply, deeply impacted by this throughout the past 16 years,” Woolsey told reporters at a news conference held Monday in the Calgary area.
“You are almost living the file with the family, so at this point my thoughts go out to Adrienne McColl’s family at this time.”
Woolsey said McColl and Parent worked at the same Calgary bar in 2002 and there was a relationship, but he wouldn’t describe the nature of it.
McColl was last seen alive around Valentine’s Day in 2002.
Parent was a person of interest at the time, but bought a one-way ticket to Ottawa days after McColl’s body was found. Police believe Parent has lived in Ontario and Quebec ever since, and he has family in Gatineau.
Friend says they had a volatile relationship
A close friend of McColl’s said the arrest could be a positive sign for other families.
“I have so many mixed emotions right now but want to say thank you for the prayers and positive energy we have received over the years and to the major crimes unit for not giving up on Adrienne. It is a long road ahead but we know justice will be served,” Shandi Bard said in a statement to CBC News.
“Adrienne was my best friend and is a beautiful person who is missed deeply by so many people. To other families waiting on answers and justice for their loved ones, do not lose hope.”
April Hall was also close with McColl. She says they worked with Parent at the Studio 82 bikini bar in Calgary at the time McColl vanished, and was supposed to go out with her the night she disappeared.
Hall says Parent and McColl were romantically involved and had a volatile relationship.
Hall says it’s been difficult for McColl’s loved ones to wait so long for an arrest and she’s feeling happy, angry and sad all at the same time.
“I’m just a wreck right now. I never thought this day would come. This is just unbelievable,” she said Monday.
“It’s just been so long. We’ve just waited so long for this.”
Family welcomes arrest
Woolsey said the family welcomed the development.
“They know that it’s the next step, that we are not done yet. There is still a court process to go through. Nothing will bring the loved one back, but there is some satisfaction that something has moved forward here.”
The RCMP major crimes division, based in Calgary, said last week there was new information in the 16-year-old case.
Investigators said they had been using new technologies to test old DNA evidence gathered from the scene.
“We have been able to submit some of those items for analysis again,” Cpl. Hal Turnbull said last Monday.
“And this time, given the advances in the technology, we’re getting some evidence which is allowing the investigation to move forward.”
Police say 184 investigators worked on the file over 16 years.