News / Halifax

Charges laid in 2012 homicides of men found in burned Halifax-area camp

Two people were arrested and charged on Wednesday with second degree murder.

A hefty reward has led to arrests in the 2012 deaths of two Halifax men at a burned-out camp outside the city, RCMP said Thursday.

Elmer Percy Higgins, 65, and Karen Marie Higgins, 49, face charges of second degree murder and related firearms offences and were to appear in Dartmouth provincial court.

The remains of Matthew Allan Hebb, 22, and 59-year-old Earle Clayton Stewart, both from Spryfield, were found after firefighters responded to a fire at the camp off Highway 374 near Sheet Harbour in December 2012.

The homicides had stymied police over the years as they searched for evidence, and they issued several public appeals for help - authorities even offered a $150,000 reward.

“Today's charges represent over four years of tireless investigative work,” Insp. Trudy Bangloy said in a news release.

“Our investigators persevered and in the end it is our hope that we find answers for the Hebb and Stewart families.”

In December 2015, police divers conducted searches in ponds and lakes near the crime scene around Sheet Harbour.

The Mounties said they arrested two people in December 2012 and again in March 2017, but they were released without charges in both instances.

The pair were arrested for a third time Wednesday at a home in Halifax without incident.

“Investigations are based on facts and evidence, and unfortunately in some cases they take much longer than other investigations,” said Cpl. Dal Hutchinson, an RCMP spokesman.

“An investigation such as this is very complex and there are a number of factors at play here.”

Hutchinson declined to describe the nature of the evidence that led to police to the point where they could lay charges, saying it would be presented in court.

However, he did confirm that police used information obtained as a result of the Department of Justice's rewards for major unsolved crimes program.

“The information . . . resulted in police laying charges yesterday,” Hutchinson said.

Under the program, the reward money is only payable if the information leads to a conviction.

In January 2016, when the reward was first offered, then-provincial justice minister Diana Whalen issued a statement saying the victims' families deserved answers.

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