An expert in extradition law says proceedings to return the Florida man charged in a decades-old homicide in Canada are likely to be straightforward, though the timeline may be harder to predict.
Robert Currie, professor of transnational criminal law at the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University, says authorities on both sides of the Canada-US border are likely to be motivated to bring a case of this nature to a swift conclusion.
Jewell Parchman Langford’s remains were discovered floating in the Nation River in May 1975 after being dropped from a bridge on Highway 417 near Casselman, Ont., between Ottawa and Montreal. Langford, who investigators say had traveled to Montreal from her home in Tennessee shortly before her family reported her missing, was 48 at the time of her death.
I’m very happy and grateful that we know that she’s finally at home, but I would love to see justice carried out and the person who did this … be held responsible for the crime.– Denise Chung, niece of Jewell Parchman Langford
The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) said they first identified the remains of the woman who came to be known as the Nation River Lady, as reported by CBC/Radio-Canada on Tuesday, back in 2020 after a successful DNA profile match using forensic genealogy.
“The extradition treaty between the two countries is set up to do exactly this — to have a person who is suspected of committing a crime in Canada extradited here from the US So there don’t appear to be any barriers to extradition at the moment that I can see,” Currie told CBC.
“The crime is certainly an historic one … but there’s no statute of limitations on crimes in Canada, nor I believe there are any certainly on murder in the US So I really don’t foresee any difficulties.”
Barring legal delays in Florida, where 81-year-old Rodney Nichols lives, the only other potential hurdle is the man’s advanced age, says Currie.
“There are times when people will resist extradition on the basis, essentially, that they’re too old or too sick, or that it would be inhumane on that basis to extradite them,” he said.
“But … the Canadian prison system is reasonably able to accommodate people who are older or people who have health problems. So again that might not put up a barrier itself, but it certainly might add up to the time that it takes.”
How does this type of extradition work?
Federal authorities have already made an extradition request to have Nichols, a former resident of Montreal, returned to Canada.
In this case, the Department of Justice in Canada, specifically the International Assistance Group, would have made a request under the treaty to the US State Department, which handles those kinds of international matters for the US government, according to Currie.
“Extradition proceedings can be a little difficult to predict time-wise. It’s entirely possible that the individual in question might waive extradition,” meaning he agreed to be surrendered to Canada, according to Currie.
“That’s really not unusual, and if he does that then it’ll be a matter of weeks before he is here and under arrest in Canada.”
Radio-Canada confirmed this week that Nichols and Langford lived together at the time of her disappearance in 1975. It remains unclear why a connection wasn’t made at the time between Langford’s reported disappearance and the discovery of a woman’s body just 150 kilometers away.
Langford’s family spent years trying to keep the case on investigators’ radar.
Her niece Denise Chung thanked investigators for sticking with the case and giving Langford’s remaining family some measure of closure. But she hopes the ordeal ends with an extradition and eventual trial.
“I’m very happy and grateful that we know that she’s finally at home, but I would love to see justice carried out and the person that did this … be held responsible for the crime,” Chung said.