The parents of a 19-year-old Kelowna, B.C., college student quietly wept in court on Thursday, as they watched video footage taken at the scene where their daughter's body was found nearly two decades ago.
Jennifer Cusworth was last seen at a house party on Richter Street, near Kelowna's downtown, in October 1993. Two days later her body was found face down in a ditch on Swamp Road — at that time, a rural area on the outskirts of Kelowna.
The case sat cold until October 2009, when police arrested Neil George Snelson, a married father of four who was at the same party as Cusworth the night she disappeared.
Earlier in the week, RCMP Cpl. Bill Parmar told the jury he and a team of investigators did a complete review of the case in 2008 and came up with a list of dozens of men as potential suspects. One of them was Snelson.
Parmar testified Snelson was followed for weeks, as police tried to get a DNA sample. When that failed, he said, they went to Snelson's home.
Snelson told them he hadn't seen Cusworth the night of the party, but when asked if there was any reason his DNA would be found at the crime scene, Parmar said, Snelson lowered his head, his eyes filled with tears, and replied "No, no. I don't think so."
Parmar said Snelson was ordered to provide a blood sample. It was a DNA match to semen found inside Cusworth.
Parmar told the jury Snelson admitted to having unprotected sex with one woman and a romantic exchange with another woman at the party — but said he didn't know who they were.
Disturbing video footage
Video shown on Thursday showed gruesome footage of investigators lifting Cusworth's stiff body from the ditch where she was found. Visible bruising could be seen on her neck.
Cusworth died from strangulation and blunt force trauma to the back of the head.
Former RCMP officer Gregory Shaigec testified that a two-by-four piece of lumber with a hair and an empty beer can were found in heavy bush on the opposite side of the road.
Cusworth's elderly parents, Jean and Terry Cusworth, are in Kelowna for the four-week trial, but have said they will not comment until the trial is over.
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