For more than three years, the narrative of Poonam Litt's disappearance went like this: on Feb. 5, 2009, the 27-year-old Brampton mother handed her young daughter to an in-law, left her home to go to work and vanished somewhere along the way.
But now, police allege, she was already dead at the time. And the very relative who claimed to have been the last person to see her alive is accused of killing her.
Mandeep Punia, 35, Ms. Litt's sister-in-law, was arrested on Friday and charged with second-degree murder. She is alleged to have killed Ms. Litt the day before she was reported missing, but police would not say where or how the crime is believed to have happened. Ms. Punia's father, 63-year-old Kulwant Litt, is charged with being an accessory after the fact.
Officers would not say whether a minivan reported to have left Ms. Litt's house in the early morning hours on the day she disappeared had anything to do with her death.
The charges came barely a day after police announced they had identified Ms. Litt's body.
"After having that press conference, it generated quite a bit of attention and information was brought to investigators that helped move this investigation forward rapidly," Peel Regional Police Constable George Tudos said.
A farm owner discovered Ms. Litt's skeletal remains in a rural area north of Brampton two months ago. It took weeks for a forensic anthropologist to confirm they belonged to her. Police are continuing to search the area for more evidence.
At the time of her death, Ms. Litt and her husband were living with his extended family, including Ms. Punia and Kulwant Litt. Ms. Litt's husband was in India when she vanished and said she had recently told him she was pregnant.