Among the charges 21-year-old Cody Alan Legebokoff faces is the first degree murder of Natasha Lynn Montgomery, despite her still being a missing person.
Getting a murder prosecution without a victims body is a rare occurrence, but Prince George has had two such cases in the past year.
The first resulted in a conviction that is now under appeal. In December, Denis Florian Ratte was found guilty of murdering his wife Wendy Ratte in 1997 even though investigators never located her body. Legebokoff faces three other murder charges of women whose bodies have been recovered.
Allegations against Legebokoff state that police scientists discovered the DNA of Montgomery and the others alleged victims on crucial items in his possession - allegations that have yet to be tested in court.
Evidence can take a variety of forms. In a murder case that doesnt necessarily have to include a deceased person being located, said provincial Crown spokesman Neil MacKenzie.
We proceed with prosecution if the available evidence provides a substantial likelihood of conviction, even if that is based largely on material evidence. Most murder prosecutions do have the presence of a body as part of the evidence, but it is not exclusively the case in B.C. history. Robert
Pickton is certainly one case.
Washington, D.C.-based prosecutor Tad DiBiase has made a study of the no body murder trial since he first conducted one in 2006.
He teaches, blogs, and is working on a book on the subject when he isnt busy with his position as deputy general counsel for the U.S. Capitol Police.
There are generally three ways to prosecute without a body: forensic evidence, confession to friends and family, confession to police, DiBiase told The Citizen. You almost always have one of them, sometimes you get lucky and have two or three, but sometimes even none of those legs have been present and the case has been won.
In Rattes case, it was a confession to law enforcement that led the
Murder tends to be a highly solvable crime, said DiBiase. For the most part the perpetrators are connected or known somehow to the victim, and that goes even higher in no body cases because the perpetrator has access to ways and means to get rid of the body in a lesser-suspicious way.
The connections between Legebokoff and his alleged victims have not been fully disclosed but there has been allegations of his making the acquaintance of women via Internet dating and social media.
Technology is as much a player in the growing number of successful no body prosecutions as forensic details like DNA, fingerprints, blood identification and other scientific advancements, said DiBiase.
If you tried to cover your tracks 50 years ago by saying Gee, I havent seen that person since they left for Europe, I dont know what happened after that. That might have worked, but now we have a wealth of electronic clues connected to us to the activities of both the victims and the perpetrators, he explained.
There are electronic fingerprints like banking records, phone records, travel records, computer files, surveillance video. It makes it much easier to track peoples places and times where they did certain things.
Police in the Legebokoff case are still searching for clues. He was said by police to frequently use the online alias 1CountryBoy. Anyone with possible information that might help prove or refute the charges against Legebokoff is asked to call a toll free hotline has been set up especially for this case: 1-877-987-8477.
Body of evidence
The lack of a body in a murder investigation is typically a large hole in the prosecutions body of evidence, and was spelled out in law as impossible to stand up in court ever since a fatal miscarriage of justice in 1661.
In the case of missing gentleman William Harrison of Campden, England, evidence was found of his assault while he walked between local towns. His body was never discovered. An employee, the employees mother and employees brother were all convicted of murder in the case.
It is believed some damning confessions, recanted in vain during court, were obtained by torture.
After all three were hanged, Harrison showed up a year later with stories of his abduction and escape. The case, thereafter known as The Campden Wonder, was used by the horrified British judiciary to abolish the practice of prosecution minus a body.
That rule held until the 20th century. One of the first known cases to break the no body, no murder spell was that of Henri Dsir Landru in 1921 in France.
This case hinged on records Landru kept, discovered by police, on missing women. The records and other physical evidence led to his conviction for serial killing. He would lure single women with personal ads, seduce them into his confidence, then murdered them for their money and
He killed 10 women (and the son of one) and destroyed their bodies in his oven to void the corpus delicti requirement.
British case law joined the French advancement in 1954 with the case of Michail Onufrejczyk, who was convicted of the murder of a roommate based solely on circumstantial evidence. It was argued, largely through blood and bone fragment evidence but also financial records, that Onufrejczyk killed his friend and fed the body to the pigs on their Welsh farm.
This was prior to many of the forensic techniques available to modern police scientists, like those used in
Canadas most infamous case of no body murder.
Though not the first no body murder conviction in Canada, Robert William Pickton is Canadas most noted investigation of this sort, and shared the pig farm
commonality with Onufrejczyk.
Police found DNA evidence of 26 missing women on his Lower Mainland property, plus his confession suggesting 49 killings.
Crown focused on the six victims with the strongest likelihood of conviction and in 2007, despite lack of a body, he was found guilty on all six: Sereena Abotsway, Marnie Frey, Andrea Joesbury, Georgina Papin, Mona Wilson and Brenda Wolfe.
Theres still reason for the judicial system to be wary, however.
Many wrongful convictions for serious crimes have tainted Canadian court history, and modern Australia also provided a cautionary tale about the need for judicial strictness of evidence in no body cases in particular.
In 2003, Queensland authorities were in the middle of prosecuting serial rapist and killer Leonard John Fraser.
One of his victims was supposedly missing teenager
Natasha Ryan. He even confessed to her murder.
Yet she was discovered alive and well during the trial.
It was soon revealed that she had been five years in hiding from a home life she wished to avoid (her boyfriend was eventually jailed for a year for perjuring himself in her 1998 disappearance).
Frasers confession was attributed to padding his credibility for the purpose of making incarceration deals with authorities. The other charges stuck and in 2007 he died in jail.