Verdict draws applause from victims' families

A jury's finding of first degree murder on all four counts drew gasps of joy quickly followed by tears of relief from the family and friends of Cody Allan Legebokoff's victims early Thursday evening.

The eight-man, four-woman jury reached its verdict following about a day-and-a-half of deliberation.

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Legebokoff, 24, showed no emotion as he had done through most of the three-and-a-half month trial. His lawyer, Jim Heller, had urged the jury to find his client guilty of second degree murder in the deaths of Cynthia France Maas and Jill Stacey Stuchenko, both 35, Natasha Lynn Montgomery, 23 and Loren Donn Leslie, 15.

Indicative of the large interest in the trial, most of the more than 100 chairs in the gallery were full. And the high emotion continued continued outside where about 70 people had gathered, many of them solemnly striking drums and singing a traditional native song that could be heard even in the courtroom.

With a full contingent of local and out-of-town media present on hand, family members walked up to a podium to give their initial thoughts.

Montgomery's mother, Louanne, was at a loss for words as she fought through her tears.

"First of all, I'd like to thank the jury to reach this verdict," she said. "I also want to say it's not over for me, I still don't have Natasha back."

Montgomery's body has never been found. Crown prosecution alleged she was the second of Legebokoff's four victims.

Leslie's father, Doug, who was largely stoic as he attended every day of the trial, also became teary eyed as he thanked the RCMP and others for their role in bring Legebokoff to justice.

"It was a long haul and we'll just have to go on with our lives in a positive direction, and I'm just hoping everybody can do that with more ease than we think," he said.

He said he was not surprised at how quickly the jury reached its verdict nor was he offended by Legebokoff's story that persons he only identified as X, Y and Z carried out the murders of the three women.

"How can you be offended with something that's not real?" he said. "There's no words to describe him."

Holding an eagle feather, as she had done throughout the trial that she had attended every day,Maas' sister, Judy, said that while the three women were described as drug addicts and sex trade workers, that did not make them bad human beings, merely people who had lost their way.

"They were loved and missed," Maas said.

First degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life without eligibility for parole for 25 years and the sentences will be served concurrently, criminal justice branch spokesman Neil Mackenzie said.

Doug Leslie said Legebokoff should remain behind bars for the rest of his life.

"He should never walk the streets, ever, that's my opinion," he said.

A formal sentencing hearing, with victim impact statements from the victims' families, will be held today at the courthouse, starting at 10 a.m.

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