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Man enters guilty pleas in connection with deadly hit and run in west Edmonton

Guilty pleas entered for man accused of running over, killing Edmonton 18 year old
WATCH ABOVE: Just as a trial was about to begin for a man accused of running over and killing an 18-year-old, the jury was dismissed and guilty pleas were entered. Sarah Ryan has more.

Warning: This story contains strong language. Reader discretion is advised.

A man who was set to begin his trial in connection with the May 2017 death of an 18-year-old in west Edmonton has instead entered guilty pleas in the case.

In an Edmonton courtroom Monday morning, Justin Handbury pleaded guilty to unlawfully operating a motor vehicle in a dangerous manner, resulting in the death of Jade Belcourt.

Edmonton police say 31-year-old Justin Handbury is wanted on “murder-related warrants” in connection with the death of 18-year-old Jade Belcourt.
Edmonton police say 31-year-old Justin Handbury is wanted on “murder-related warrants” in connection with the death of 18-year-old Jade Belcourt. Supplied by EPS

Belcourt died after he was struck by a pickup truck that smashed into his parents’ backyard in the area of 85 Avenue and 190 Street on May 22, 2017. An autopsy revealed he died from blunt craniocervical spine trauma, and his death was ruled a homicide.

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READ MORE: Charges laid 10 months after Edmonton teen’s death provide relief for parents

According to the agreed statement of facts, Handbury was supposed to be on house arrest and didn’t have a valid driver’s licence at the time of the crime.

He was driving a stolen truck when he arrived at the house with a backpack full of cash, methamphetamine and shatter, according to the court document.

Handbury, Belcourt and his older brother, Jordan Cork, consumed meth and shatter in the garage. Cork and Belcourt planned on robbing Handbury of his drugs when he arrived, and Cork and Handbury got into a fight when Handbury refused to hand over the remaining drugs, the agreed statement of facts reads.

Handbury fled, but Belcourt chased after him with a baseball bat, smashing the passenger side of the windshield. Belcourt then walked back into the yard before Handbury drove into the yard, running down the fence and Belcourt.

Belcourt was run over a second time when the truck fled the scene.

Cork was injured by flying debris from the fence.

After he was arrested, Handbury called his common-law wife from jail and said “Help me figure out what the f*** is going on with my life? It’s not fair to anybody. It’s not fair to that f***ing kid that got run the f*** over because I f***ing snapped and lost it.”

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Family of Edmonton teen killed in hit and run speak about charges
Family of Edmonton teen killed in hit and run speak about charges

In court on Monday, Handbury also pleaded guilty to unlawfully operating a motor vehicle in a dangerous manner, resulting in bodily harm to Cork.

In the days after Belcourt’s death, Handbury was charged with second-degree murder and attempted murder, but police said “new information” led investigators to withdraw the charges.

READ MORE: Charges withdrawn against suspect in hit and run that killed Edmonton teen

Handbury was then charged with several other offences, including criminal negligence causing death, dangerous driving causing death, criminal negligence causing bodily harm, dangerous driving causing bodily harm, possession of a stolen truck, driving while disqualified and possessing incendiary material (gasoline) for the purpose of committing arson.

Handbury was scheduled to begin a 10-day jury trial on the charges on Monday morning. Instead, he entered the two guilty pleas and the jury was dismissed.

Over the phone from Abbotsford, B.C. Monday, Belcourt’s stepdad said he will never forgive Handbury for what he put his family through.

“He doesn’t realize what he put us through, these last three years. He just doesn’t get it,” Rick Dagg said. “It’s just been hell.

“He just tore a family apart, is what he did. Totally tore a family apart.”

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Jade was one of five kids, and left behind three brothers and a sister, Dagg said.

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“He ruined, not just Jade’s life — he ended that one — but I mean, he has no idea of the impact it’s had on the rest of his family,” Dagg said.

“I hope he suffers for the next 15 years, as far as I’m concerned.”

Jade Belcourt was killed in a hit-and-run collision in west Edmonton on Monday, May 22, 2017.
Jade Belcourt was killed in a hit-and-run collision in west Edmonton on Monday, May 22, 2017. Supplied

Neighbour Michael Duggan witnessed the incident in 2017 and was scheduled to testify at the trial, had it gone ahead as scheduled.

He was outside with his daughter at the time when he said he heard a commotion.

“Two gentlemen were arguing, didn’t really see any faces,” he said Monday. “Just saw one guy chasing another guy with what looked like a broom handle.”

READ MORE: Edmonton police announce charges in connection with deadly hit and run in 2017

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Duggan said he put his daughter inside his house and when he came back outside, the truck had driven through his neighbour’s fence and into the yard.

“I just saw him back up and leave,” Duggan said of the truck driver.

“I heard the screams of the mother or the sister shortly afterward, when they saw the guy in the yard. Pretty horrible screams.

“It was pretty scary that it happened so quickly, it escalated so quickly.”

When asked his thoughts on Handbury’s guilty pleas, Duggan said he hopes the family feels as though justice will be served.

Belcourt’s parents boarded a plane from B.C. to Edmonton Monday in hopes they would be able to read their victim impact statements in court. A sentencing hearing for Handbury is scheduled for Tuesday.

With files from Sarah Ryan, Global News.