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Dartmouth man charged with murder in girlfriend’s 2018 disappearance

Karen Lee MacKenzie was last seen Feb. 25, 2018. On April 17, 2019, a man was arrested in Cole Harbour and charged with second-degree murder in her death.
Karen Lee MacKenzie was last seen Feb. 25, 2018. On April 17, 2019, a man was arrested in Cole Harbour and charged with second-degree murder in her death. - Family photo

A Dartmouth man has been charged with second-degree murder in the 2018 death of 40-year-old Karen Lee MacKenzie.

Owen Patrick Nelson, 43, of Dartmouth was arrested Wednesday at a residence in Cole Harbour and charged with second-degree murder and interfering with human remains, Supt. Jim Perrin of the Halifax Regional Police said at a Thursday afternoon news conference.

Nelson, MacKenzie’s one-time boyfriend, was remanded and appeared in Dartmouth provincial court on Thursday.

MacKenzie was reported missing on March 3, 2018. The report to police said that she had not been seen or heard from for a week.

Perrin said police have not recovered MacKenzie’s body.

“That portion of the case remains under investigation,” Perrin said. “We have yet to find her remains. As troubling as this is for her loved ones, today we believe that hopefully this (arrest) may provide some comfort. She still has not been located and anybody that can assist us in this matter, we encourage them to contact the police.”

Perrin said he could not get into the details of how the interference with human remains charge was arrived at without finding the body.

“The evidence that we have collected over the last year, we are confident that the right charges were laid today based on what’s collected.”

Police immediately treated MacKenzie’s disappearance as suspicious in March 2018.

Perrin said police executed significant searches in multiple locations during the month MacKenzie was reported missing, including locations in Halifax Regional Municipality, Hants County and Lunenburg County.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t recover Ms. MacKenzie’s remains during those searches.”

Nelson was initially arrested March 13, 2018, in the Highfield Park Drive area of Dartmouth and charged with interfering with her remains, public mischief, assault and three counts of breach of probation in relation to the disappearance.

Nelson pleaded not guility to the original charges in Dartmouth provincial court in June 2018.

The public mischief charge alleged Nelson misled police by reporting a missing person with the intent of diverting suspicion from himself.

Perrin would not confirm Thursday that it was Nelson who reported MacKenzie missing.

“The case was under investigation since last year,” Perrin said. “We made an arrest last year, the investigation continued and there has been ongoing consultation with the public prosecution service and in recent weeks, we were satisfied that we were able to move forward with the (murder) charge.”

Lawyer Michelle James had told the court last year that her client has a history of mental health issues and has been diagnosed with severe anxiety disorder. She said Nelson has experienced blackouts from that disorder and has told family members he hears voices in his head.

A psychiatric assessment was received by the court in early May 2018 and Nelson was granted bail a short time later.

Nelson now faces only the most recent charges of second-degree murder and interfering with human remains.

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