Trial for Fort St. James man accused in four deaths gets underway

File photo of Cody Legebokoff.
File photo of Cody Legebokoff. RCMP Handout

PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. – Almost every day, Doug Leslie writes a short note to his 15-year-old daughter Loren, whose body was found nearly four years ago in a remote area in northern British Columbia.

Often, the notes are simple recaps of Leslie’s day. Sometimes he offers updates about the foundation he started in his daughter’s name. Recently, the notes have foreshadowed a legal case that is about to unfold in Prince George.

“The trial is still playing on my mind,” he wrote in a recent post on Facebook.

“I’m sure things will work out OK. Nothing ever can be worse than losing you that way.”

Leslie’s daughter is counted among the victims in a jury trial of an alleged serial killer set to start Monday in the northern B.C. city.

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Cody Legebokoff is accused of four counts of first-degree murder.

Loren Leslie, who was legally blind with 50 per cent vision in one eye and zero in the other, was last seen in Nov. 27, 2010, and her body was found later the same day.

Jill Stuchenko, 35, was reported missing Oct. 22, 2009. Her body was found four days later in a gravel pit on the outskirts of Prince George. She was described by the RCMP as a “talented singer.”

Cynthia Maas, also 35, was reported missing Sept. 23, 2010, and her body was found a few weeks later in a park in Prince George.

Natasha Montgomery, 23, was also reported missing on Sept. 23, 2010, though her body has never been found.

Stuchenko, Maas and Montgomery were all mothers.

The RCMP announced one murder charge in November 2010 and three more in October 2011, when Legebokoff, who is from Fort St. James, was 21 years old. He has been in custody awaiting trial, which has been delayed several times.

Legebokoff’s lawyer declined to comment in advance of the trial. A spokesperson for the Crown was unavailable.

The trial will place a national spotlight on Prince George, a city of more than 70,000 people more than 500 kilometres northeast of Vancouver.

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While Prince George Mayor Shari Green acknowledged the trial will have an impact on her city, she said it will be more acutely felt in smaller communities connected to the case, such as Fraser Lake, where Loren Leslie was from.

“Those communities are also reeling from this horrible situation,” said Green.

“But it’s not a trial that we (in Prince George) are pleased is happening, because obviously four women have lost their lives.”

Since his daughter’s death, Doug Leslie started the Loren Donn Leslie Foundation, which encourages “treating others with dignity, compassion and respect.”

The foundation has been raising money for scholarships and bursaries, and Leslie has given talks in the region about public safety.

A recent newsletter, posted in April, said the foundation plans to hold teen support workshops, promote a peer mentoring program and hold awareness walks.

The foundation’s motto is Grip Fast, which is the motto of the family’s namesake, the Scottish clan of Leslie. It means to “hold on tight to what you love,” the foundation’s website says.

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