Crown rejects Legebokoff plea to second degree murder

Crown prosecution denied Cody Allan Legebokoff's attempt to plead guilty to four counts of second degree murder as the trial related to the deaths of three women and a teenage girl entered the final stretch on Monday.
Legebokoff, 24, entered the pleas prior to B.C. Supreme Court Justice Glen Parrett giving his charge, or final instructions, to the jury on how they should treat the evidence they've heard during the trial, which began June 2. 
In response, prosecutor Joseph Temple said the Crown did not consent to the pleas. Crown is seeking verdicts of first-degree murder in all four deaths. 
The jury, which is expected to begin deliberations late tomorrow, also has the options of finding Legebokoff guilty of manslaughter or not guilty at all in the deaths of Jill Stacey Stuchenko, 35, Cynthia Frances Maas, 35 and Natasha Lynn Montgomery, 23, and Loren Donn Leslie, 15.
Given that Legebokoff's lawyer, Jim Heller, had urged the jury during his closing statement last week to find his client guilty of second degree rather than the more serious charge of first degree murder, the move on Monday came as no surprise.
Legebokoff has claimed that while he was involved in the killings of Stuchenko, Maas and Montgomery, three other people which he identified as X, Y and Z carried out the murders.
As for the death of Loren Donn Leslie, the partially-blind 15-year-old girl whose body was found in a remote wooded area, Legebokoff testified he struck the girl with a pipe wrench but the act wasn't planned and deliberate.
Crown has argued Legebokoff planned the murders, sexually assaulted his victims, and should be convicted of the more serious charges of first-degree murder.
In giving his charge, Parrett told the jury members they are "entitled to consider" Legebokoff's plea "as an admission" but must still be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the Crown has proven all of the essential elements of the offence.
"Mr. Legebokoff's plea is a factor you can consider but is only one factor you can consider along with all of the other evidence," Parrett said.
Parrett took the jury through advice on how to account for various types of evidence and noted that of the 94 witnesses who testified, 20 were expert witnesses. Similar to other types of witnesses, Parrett said the jury is not obliged to consider expert witness testimony as conclusive.
Parrett will continue to deliver his charge this morning at the Prince George courthouse.
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