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Police alleged yesterday that a man whose common-law wife had been missing for nearly 20 months was carrying her head with him on a motorcycle when he was arrested near Orangeville, Ont., this week.

James Randall, a 31-year-old roofer, has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Jennifer Zumach, who was 21 when he reported her missing on Jan. 17, 1999. They had a son, now 3 years old, and lived in an apartment in Orangeville, northwest of Toronto.

Orangeville Police Inspector Mike Robinson said the head was in a container but would not be more specific. "He had it on the motorcycle, yes. He had it with him on the motorcycle."

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The man was riding on a rural road in Dufferin County, northwest of the town, when he was arrested on Wednesday evening, Insp. Robinson said. He would not say what led to the arrest but said there was no chase.

Police do not know how the woman died or where the rest of her remains are, he said. "We're optimistic that further searches may result in further recovery."

He would not discuss the condition of the head, which was identified through dental records.

In January of this year, when Ms. Zumach had been missing for a year, the Ontario Provincial Police and Orangeville Police posted a $25,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of those responsible for her disappearance. She was described as 5-foot-9 and 190 pounds with brown-blonde shoulder-length hair and three tatoos.

Reached last night, her mother, Jill Zumach, said: "What can I say? She was my daughter. She loved her child. She certainly didn't deserve this."

The case was not the first disappearance in the family, she said.

Her daughter reported in December, 1997, that her baby, then five weeks old, had been abducted, but the child was returned safely five days later, she said. Mr. Randall and her daughter were separated at that time but they subsequently reunited and lived together until the woman went missing a little more than a year later, she said.

Insp. Robinson said the arrest followed an 18-month investigation by the OPP criminal investigation branch and the 31-officer Orangeville force, which serves a population of 20,000 about 65 kilometres from Toronto.

"At the time of the arrest, the accused, Randall, was in possession of the deceased woman's head," he said. "He was on a motorcycle at the time. Forensic identification on these remains have positively identified the remains to be that of Jennifer Zumach."

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