Even if jury members believe Cody Allan Legebokoff's testimony about how the death of three women occurred, they can still find him guilty of first degree murder, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Glen Parrett confirmed Tuesday.
Legebokoff testified that a drug dealer and two accomplices, identified as X, Y and Z, carried out the actual acts of killing Jill Stacey Stuchenko, 35, Cynthia Frances Maas, 35, and Natasha Lynn Montgomery, 23, but was "involved" in their deaths because he provided the weapons.
As he continued to give his final instructions, Parrett told jury members Legebokoff's actions could constitute first degree murder if they concluded he "aided" in the killings by handing them the weapons knowing what they were going to be used for.
Going through the evidence as he understood it, Parrett said Legebokoff testified he gave a pipe to X to use on Stuchenko, handed Y a pickaroon to kill Maas and gave Z a knife used to slash Montgomery's throat.
Legebokoff has refused to identify X, Y and Z and Parrett noted that the Crown must also have proven that the three committed first degree murder before finding the accused guilty of the same. But Parrett also told jury members that by his refusal to to provide their names, Legebokoff has "prevented the police and the Crown from verifying the story and indeed their existence."
"You are entitled and obliged to consider that, both in assessing the accused's overall credibility and his credibility in relating the story about them to you," Parrett continued.
In his closing statement last week, Crown prosecutor Joseph Temple urged the jury to largely reject Legebokoff's story as well as the one he gave about the death of Loren Donn Leslie, the partially-blind 15-year-old teen whose body was found Nov. 27, 2010 off a logging road north of Vanderhoof on Nov. 27, 2010.
Legebokoff said he hit Leslie with a pipe wrench out of panic and anger after she "went psycho" and hit herself with the wrench and stabbed herself with the knife from a utility tool. Parrett noted that even if Leslie was not dead when he left the scene, he could still be found guilty of first degree murder if the jury found he did not tell police about the incident over the next couple of hours following his arrest, shortly after he was seen speeding away from the scene.
That discovery, combined with blood and a backpack in the shape of a monkey found in Legebokoff's truck that same night sparked an investigation that led to the additional charges for the murders of the three women.
Stuchenko's body was found Oct. 26, 2009 partially buried in a gravel pit off Foothills Boulevard and Otway Road and Maas' body was found in L.C. Gunn Park slightly less than a year later, on Oct. 9, 2010. Montgomery went missing sometime in late August or early September 2010 but her body has never been found.
A jury can reach a verdict of first degree murder if they find that not only did the accused carry out the killings but had planned to commit the murders or committed them while in the commission of a sexual assault.
Temple argued first degree murder applies to Legebokoff because he both planned the murders and sexually assaulted the victims as part of the killings.
Earlier in the day, Parrett told jury members that if they find evidence related to one murder to be so similar to that from another that they were likely to have been committed by the same person, it can be used in reaching a final decision on both cases.
But he also warned that they cannot use the evidence from count to count to infer that his "character or disposition is such that he is likely to have committed the offences as charged in the other counts." Rather, they must still be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt to reach a guilty verdict, Parrett said.
Parrett also went through the forensic evidence uncovered during the investigation:
- With respect to Stuchenko, Legebokoff's DNA was found on a fingernail, in vaginal and anal swabs taken from the victim as well as a tampon found during an autopsy. Stuchenko's blood was found in a cutting from a carpet in the basement suite of the 1500-block Carney Street home Legebokoff lived in at the time her body was found, as well as in a couch he took with him to a 1400-block Liard Drive apartment.
- DNA taken from a toothbrush alleged to be Montgomery's and matched with her mother's DNA was matched to blood found on the shorts Legebokoff was wearing when he was arrested as well as on a hoodie found in his apartment; on a bed sheet, comforter, bath mat and box spring mattress found in the apartment, on 14 spots from an ax in the apartment's entry closet; the carpet outside the master bedroom, a cutting from the dining room floor and on 33 spots from locations throughout the hallway and living room.
- Blood from Maas was found in two spots on the neck area of a sweater and from a sock found behind the driver's seat of Legebokoff's truck, on nine spots from the head and shaft of a pickaroon found in the apartment; and on 28 spots on a pair of shoes found in the apartment's entry closet.
- Leslie's blood was found on the shoes, shirt and shorts Legebokoff was wearing when he was arrested and on a jacket found in his truck; on a pipe wrench and utility tool found in the truck; on cuttings from the back of the passenger seat and rear carpet of the truck's cab and from swabs taken from two spots at the site where her body was found.
In his closing argument last week, defence lawyer Jim Heller argued the jury should find Legebokoff guilty of second degree murder in all four deaths and on Monday, just before Parrett began to deliver his charge, Legebokoff attempted to enter guilty pleas to that charge. But Temple refused to consent to the plea and is continuing to seek convictions of first degree murder.
Parrett said he expects to wrap up his charge to the jury this morning. It will then begin deliberations.