A Langley man was arrested without incident and charged with manslaughter last week in the death of Lytton resident Sandy Charlie.
RCMP told the News the alleged killer, William Robert Smith, 45, is from Siska and was living in the Lytton area at the time Sandy Charlie disappeared. Police say the two men knew each other, and Smith is known to police. Charlie was a member of the Lytton First Nation.
Charlie, 48, was reported missing Jan. 20, 2000 when his friends and family reported he had been missing since December 1999. They waited to alert authorities until Charlie’s Jan. 20 birthday, hoping that he would make contact or return to Lytton.
Despite an exhaustive search by Lytton RCMP and volunteers, Charlie’s remains were not discovered until September of last year when they were found in a concealed makeshift grave near Lytton.
The Provincial Unsolved Homicide Unit took over the case in 2005. After DNA testing last fall determined the remains were Charlie’s, evidence was collected that eventually led to a charge.
Smith appeared Monday in Provincial Court in Kamloops.
“Your heart has to go out to the Charlie family,” said Insp. Gary Shinkaruk of the E Division Major Crime Unit. “Sandy Charlie was missing for so long and they never knew what happened to him. Then after his remains were found, we had to tell them he died as a result of being murdered.”
Insp. Shinkaruk told the News Charlie was “a good man, a good guy. He didn’t live the kind of lifestyle that would put him at risk of dying this way. By all accounts, he was a very well-liked guy and a family man.”
He expressed appreciation to the Lytton community for its “continued efforts and support. Missing persons and homicide cases can have a wide-ranging impact and this was even greater because the community is so tight-knit.”
The inspector said RCMP representatives met Aug. 16 with representatives of the Lytton First Nation and the Siska Band.
“We spent time with the two bands yesterday. In such a small community, this is tough news for people to take in.”
Compounding the tragedy is the death of Charlie’s son, Sandy Nolan Harry Cleghorn, who died while searching for his father.
Cleghorn was reported missing on Jan. 25, 2000 after traveling to Lytton to look for his father. On May 12 of that year, a body identified as Cleghorn, was located on the Fraser River near Lytton. Police determined he 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 Insp. Shinkaruk.