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Autopsy reveals extensive injuries, Legebokoff trial hears

The forensic pathologist who performed autopsies on two women presented his findings Wednesday as the trial for accused serial killer Cody Alan Legebokoff continued at the Prince George courthouse.

The forensic pathologist who performed autopsies on two women presented his findings Wednesday as the trial for accused serial killer Cody Alan Legebokoff continued at the Prince George courthouse.

Three days after Jill Stacey Stuchenko was found on Oct. 26, 2009 in a shallow grave in a gravel pit off Otway Road near Foothills Boulevard, Dr. James Stephen conducted an autopsy on her body at Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops.

And nearly a year later, he did the same work on Cynthia Frances Maas, four days after her body was found Oct. 9, 2010 in L.C. Gunn Park.

Stephen detailed an extensive list of injuries to the two women during testimony.

He found two lacerations, caused by a blow that broke the skin, on Stuchenko's head - one at her right ear and one to the back of her head that corresponded to a fracture to her skull. There were also two bruises on her forehead and three major contusions to her brain.

The damage suggested she was hit with "significant" force, enough to knock her unconscious if not kill her, Stephen said, but could not specifically say what weapon was used.

Bruising to her forearms suggested she was trying to ward off her attacker, the court heard.

Stephen also noted there was very little blood found in Stuchenko's body and that, combined with evidence of "animal activity" could also have meant she bled to death after an animal got to her while she was knocked out.

Bruising and a tear to her anal area were also found, which Stephen said were signs of a sexual assault.

Stephen also noted that during the autopsy, a tampon was uncovered in Stuchenko and handed over to RCMP but he added that he failed to record the discovery in his report, despite it being a "bit of a surprise." The court has also heard that in an oversight, the RCMP neglected to photograph the tampon before taking it away as evidence.

Samples of her blood and urine indicated she had ingested cocaine within a few hours of her death.

Other than the damage from the animals, Stephen said Stuchenko's body was reasonably well preserved. In contrast, he said Maas' body was extremely decomposed, with her upper area "basically skeletonized." As well, he said her head was not attached to the top of her spine.

In earlier testimony, an expert witness estimated she was killed about a month before her body was found.

Stephen said the cheekbones and lower jawbone on both sides of her head were fractured, and a large hole was found in her right shoulder blade caused by a "penetrating wound." A smaller but similar wound was also found in one of her vertebrae and her right collar bone was broken, the court was told.

Evidence was also presented that her voice box was pierced with a knife or other sharp edged instrument.

An analysis of a kidney retrieved from Maas showed use of cocaine within hours of her death, as well as marijuana and an antidepressant.

Stephen said Maas died from a combination of blunt force trauma and penetrating wounds. He estimated she suffered more than a dozen blows.

Similar to Stuchenko, several bruises were found on Maas' forearms suggesting she was defending herself from the blows. Bruising was also found on both women's knees and lower legs, which Stephen said could have come from falling onto them.

Under cross examination from defence lawyer Jim Heller, Stephen said he could not say for certain how many weapons were used and how many attackers there were but thought at least two weapons were used on both victims and as many as three on Maas.

Both Stuchenko and Maas were 35 years old at the time of their deaths. Legebokoff is also accused of first degree murder in the deaths of Loren Don Leslie, 15, whose body was found Nov. 27, 2010 near a gravel pit north of Vanderhoof, and Natasha Lynn Montgomery, 24, who went missing in September 2010 and whose body has never been found.

The trial before a 14-person jury and B.C. Supreme Court Justice Glen Parrett continues today at the Prince George courthouse, 9:30 a.m. start.