02/19/2018 20:49 EST | Updated 02/19/2018 20:58 EST

Stephane Parent Charged With Murder In 16-Year-Old Alberta Cold Case

Adrienne McColl and Stephane Parent were dating when she was found dead in a rancher's field.

RCMP via Canadian Press
It will be 16 years this Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018, since Adrienne McColl was found murdered in a rancher's field approximately 85 kilometres south of Calgary.

AIRDRIE, Alta. — Friends of an Alberta woman slain 16 years ago say they had lost virtually all hope police would solve the case.

But RCMP announced Monday they have charged Stephane Parent, 49, with second-degree murder in the death of Adrienne McColl.

McColl was 21 when she was reported missing around Valentine's Day 2002. Her remains were discovered three days later by a rancher tending to his cattle near Nanton, 85 kilometres south of Calgary.

Parent, who friends say was McColl's boyfriend, was arrested in Gatineau, Que., on Saturday — 16 years to the day since McColl's body was found.

Friends had given up

"I really do truly believe that all of us had given up," said Laurie Heard, who worked with Parent and McColl at the now-shuttered Calgary bar Studio 82.

Heard said police recently took fingerprints of some of McColl's friends and suggested there was new evidence in the case.

But she said she didn't believe the renewed efforts would amount to anything.

Hearing the news this morning stopped my heart and I am so happy.Laurie Heard

"I just thought that it was a make-work project and how could they possibly get anywhere 16 years later? Hearing the news this morning stopped my heart and I am so happy," said Heard.

Parent's lawyer, Jean-Pierre Rancourt, said his client was arrested eight years ago, but was freed a couple of hours later without explanation.

"He was very surprised to see that for a second time he's arrested for the same thing Saturday morning, so he was in shock," said Rancourt.

Suspect flown to Calgary to face charges

Rancourt said his client was flown to Calgary on Monday and will ask to be released on bail, as it could be a year or two before trial.

RCMP said Parent bought a one-way ticket to Ottawa shortly after McColl's death and was considered a person of interest at the time. He has lived in Ontario and Quebec ever since.

Heard said McColl and Parent had a volatile relationship and she doesn't understand what her young, bubbly friend saw in a man more than a decade her senior.

She was everything happy and pretty in this world.Laurie Heard

Heard said people were drawn to McColl.

"She was light. She was sunshine. She was everything happy and pretty in this world."

April Hall, another friend of McColl's who worked at Studio 82, said 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.

Hopes were raised four years ago

Hall said her hopes had been raised over the years only to be let down. She said she got a call four years ago from an RCMP constable suggesting there would soon be an arrest but nothing came of it.

Shandi Bard, McColl's best friend, said news of the arrest has left her with mixed emotions and she thanked RCMP for not giving up.

"It's a long road ahead, but we know justice will be served," she said.

"To other families waiting on answers and justice for their loved ones: do not lose hope."

RCMP Supt. Garrett Woolsey said police were able to make an arrest thanks to advances in forensic technology, particularly with DNA.

He said 184 officers have worked on the case over the years.

With files from Vicky Fragasso-Marquis in Montreal

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