Crown claims DNA link to accused in four deaths

PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. – Cody Legebokoff’s arrest almost four years ago happened largely by chance, after an alert RCMP officer spotted a pickup truck speeding away from a remote, snow-covered logging road in northern British Columbia, a Crown lawyer said Monday at the start of the man’s murder trial

With the help of another officer also in the area, the Mountie pulled over the truck, and what started as a traffic stop would lead police and prosecutors to link Legebokoff to the deaths of three women and a 15-year-old girl, said Crown counsel Joseph Temple.

Legebokoff, 24, is accused of the first-degree murders of 35-year-old Jill Stuchenko, 35-year-old Cynthia Maas, 23-year-old Natasha Montgomery and 15-year-old Loren Leslie.

The traffic stop brought police to Leslie’s body, Temple told the jury, while clothing found on Legebokoff and inside the truck contained the DNA of Montgomery and Maas. DNA matching Stuchenko was later found in Legebokoff’s apartment, said Temple.

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The officer who stopped Legebokoff found blood on the man’s chin, legs and shoes, and on the floor of the truck, Temple said. The officer also found a phone, a knife and a pipe wrench both stained with blood, and identification belonging to Leslie but with a different surname she had used previously, said Temple.

Legebokoff claimed he had been poaching deer, said Temple, so the officers called a conservation officer, who in turn followed tracks from Legebokoff’s truck up the logging road.

Leslie’s body, lifeless but still warm to the touch, was found in a gravel pit, said Temple.

Temple said Leslie met Legebokoff on a website called Nexopia, where Legebokoff used the name “1countryboy.” Legebokoff first sent her a message on Nov. 1, 2010, said Temple.

On the evening of Nov. 27, they exchanged text messages arranging to meet, said Temple, and Legebokoff agreed to bring alcohol. That evening, Leslie was seen at a school playground meeting a man wearing shorts and driving a pickup truck, said Temple.

When Leslie’s body was found, her pants were pulled to her ankles, said Temple. An autopsy concluded she died of massive blows to her head, while she also had stab wounds to her neck, he said.

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Initially, Legebokoff claimed he discovered the body by accident, panicked and sped away, Temple said.

He later told police he met Leslie online and that the pair had sex that night, but he said Leslie “started freaking out” and used a knife and pipe wrench to hit herself in the face and stab herself in the neck, said Temple.

“The Crown will invite you to conclude that Cody Legebokoff murdered Loren Leslie,” Temple said, as Legebokoff, wearing an oversized shirt and his head shaved bald, stared ahead blankly.

Stuchenko, a mother of six who has been described as a talented singer, was last seen Oct. 9, 2009. Her body was found half buried in a gravel pit on Oct. 26, Temple told the court. Stuchenko was a frequent user of cocaine who was involved in the sex trade, Temple said.

Temple said an autopsy revealed Stuchenko suffered multiple blows to her head, face and arms. Her DNA was found on blood stains on a carpet in a basement apartment where Legebokoff once lived and on a couch that had been at the apartment when he lived there, said Temple.

Vaginal and anal swabs of Stuchenko’s body revealed DNA profiles matching Legebokoff, said Temple, as did testing of a clipping from one of Stuchenko’s fingernails.

Maas, also believed to have worked in the sex trade, was last seen on Sept. 10, 2010, and her body was found in a Prince George park nearly a month later, he said.

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Temple told the court Maas died of blunt-force trauma to the head and penetrating wounds. She had a hole in her shoulder blade, a broken jaw and cheekbone, and injuries to her neck that might have been caused by someone stomping on it, he said.

He said Maas’s DNA was found on a sweater and a sock found in Legebokoff’s truck, as well as a pickaxe tool and running shoes found in his apartment.

Montgomery, who the Crown says also used drugs and worked in the sex trade, was last seen either Aug. 31 or early Sept. 1, 2010, leaving a friend’s house.

Montgomery’s DNA was later found in blood stains and stains presumed to be blood located in 32 samples taken in Legebokoff’s apartment, including on an axe, Temple said. Her DNA was also found on shorts Legebokoff was wearing when he was arrested in November 2010, said Temple.

Montgomery, who had two children and lived in Quesnel, B.C., hasn’t been seen since, the court heard.

Legebokoff has pleaded not guilty.

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