A man has been arrested in Langley and charged with manslaughter in the death of Sandy Charlie of Lytton, a murder that was unsolved for more than a dozen years.
Sandy Charlie went missing in late December of 1999. His family reported him missing after he failed to contact them on his January 20 birthday in 2000.
Charlie, a member of the Lytton First Nation band, was a well-liked member of his community who seems to have done nothing to put himself in harms way.
“He was a true victim,” said Insp. Gary Shinkaruk, of the E Division Major Crime Unit of the RCMP.
William Robert Smith, 45, was arrested without incident in Langley on Aug. 15, Shinkaruk said.
Smith is originally from Lytton, and apparently knew Charlie before the murder. In a small town like Lytton, however, almost everyone knows each other, noted Shinkaruk.
Smith has been charged with the manslaughter of Charlie. The suspect is being held in the Lower Mainland and will be transferred to appear in Kamloops Provincial Court next Monday, Aug. 20.
Smith has been living in the Aldergrove area and working in the Lower Mainland for some time now, Shinaruk said.
The case of Charlie’s disappearance was investigated first by the Lytton RCMP, who conducted an extensive search, and then by the RCMP Southeast Major Crime Unit.
There seemed to be no reason for Charlie’s disappearance.
“Sandy Charlie was by all accounts a family man, a good man,” said Shinkaruk. He wasn’t known to police for any involvement in any type of “high risk lifestyle” such as gangs or drugs.
He had worked on a small cable ferry that crosses the river near Lytton, and had been looking for the work at the time of his disappearance.
In 2005, the case was turned over to the Provincial Unsolved Homicide Unit, which continued to review tips about the case.
In September, 2011, the remains of Charlie were found near Lytton in a makeshift grave, said Shinkaruk.
That discovery provided evidence and advanced the investigation, and led to the charges laid this week.
The story had an additional tragic element for the Charlie family, after the victim’s son, Sandy Nolan Harry Cleghorn, was found dead near the Fraser River in March of 2000. He had been reported missing on Jan. 25 of that year after travelling to Lytton to help in the search for his father. He had apparently died of exposure.
“Our empathy and thoughts go out to the Charlie family, not only for the uncertainty that has been in place with Sandy, but the added loss of his son who was also trying to find his dad.” said Shinkaruk.
Charlie still has daughters and other family members around Lytton.
“It was pretty emotional for them,” said Shinkaruk.
For most of the last 10 years, the family hasn’t known if Charlie was alive or dead. They finally got their answers, although they are not the kind of answers anyone wants, Shinkaruk said.
“We have to also thank the community of Lytton for their continued efforts and support,” said Shinkaruk. “Missing persons and homicide cases can have a wide ranging impact and this was even greater in the tight knit community of Lytton.”
“I would like to thank the RCMP for their work on giving closure to the Charlie family,” says Lytton Band Councilor Jim Brown.