PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. - A 24-year-old British Columbia man has been convicted of killing three women and a teenage girl, making him one of Canada's youngest serial killers.
Cody Legebokoff was convicted Thursday on four counts of first-degree murder after a trial that heard gruesome details about the circumstances of the victims' deaths and testimony from Legebokoff himself.
He was convicted of killing Jill Stuchenko; 35; Cynthia Maas, 35; Natasha Montgomery, 23; Loren Leslie, 15.
Legebokoff was just 19 years old when he killed his first victim in Prince George, B.C.
In a province with a dark history of serial killers including Clifford Olson and Robert Pickton, Legebokoff's victims fit a familiar profile of vulnerability.
For the women, that vulnerability came in the form of poverty and addiction; all three were drug users who had turned to sex work in Prince George, the trial heard. Leslie, who had a rare eye condition that impaired her vision, struggled with mental illness.
But beyond that, the trial did not reveal what motivated Legebokoff, who had an apparently typical upbringing in Fort St. James, B.C., but had become a frequent user of crack cocaine by the time of the murders. He admitted he was present when each victim died but denied killing any of them.
Legebokoff killed his first victim in the fall of 2009.
Stuchenko was last seen on Oct. 9 of that year and her badly beaten body was found a month later half buried in a gravel pit in the outskirts of Prince George. Legebokoff's DNA was found on Stuchenko's body, and her DNA was found in Legebokoff's apartment.
He killed again a year later. Montgomery was last seen leaving a friend's house on Aug. 31 or Sept. 1 of 2010. Her body is never found, but her DNA was discovered in numerous spots during a search of Legebokoff's apartment.
Maas vanished on Sept. 10 of 2010. Her body was found a month later in a wooded park. Her DNA was also found where Legebokoff was living.
Leslie was murdered Nov. 27, 2010, and the circumstances of her death triggered Legebokoff's arrest.
An RCMP officer spotted Legebokoff's truck speeding out of a remote logging road near Vanderhoof, B.C., more than 100 kilometres west of Prince George.
At first, Legebokoff claimed he was poaching deer, prompting the Mounties to call in a conservation officer. When the officer ventured up the logging road where Legebokoff was first spotted, he found Leslie's blooded body in a snowy gravel pit.
He was charged with first-degree murder. A year later, the RCMP announced three more counts.
Legebokoff claimed three other people were also involved in the women's deaths, though he refused to name them, telling the jury he didn't want to go to prison with a reputation as a rat.
He claimed he met up with Leslie and they had sex. He admitted to hitting her with pipe wrench, but said she used a knife on herself to bludgeon and stab herself to death.
The judge told the jury they could convict Legebokoff of first-degree murder even if they believed others were involved as long as they were convinced he aided in the killings.
Immediately before the judge delivered his instructions to the jury, Legebokoff attempted to plead guilty to second-degree murder. His lawyer had previously urged the jury to convict Legebokoff of that lesser charge.
The Crown rejected the plea, and the judge told the jury they could consider Legebokoff's surprise attempt to cop to second-degree murder as an admission.
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The 94 witnesses who testified including family members of the victims.
Leslie lived with her mother in Vanderhoof. The trial heard the teen was happy and light-hearted at times, but her mother also said the girl had been diagnosed with post-traumatic depression and bipolar disorder, for which she was prescribed medication. Leslie's parents, however, insisted she wasn't suicidal.
The Crown's theory was that Leslie met Legebokoff through an online social network service.
In contrast, few details emerged about the women, all of whom were mothers.
Montgomery had two children and lived in Quesnel, B.C., though she was living in Prince George after spending time in jail. Her family said she was close to her children and frequently made the trip by bus to Penticton to visit relatives.
Stuchenko had six children and has been described as a talented singer.
Maas' family has previously said she was the victim of violence since she was young, and they wanted the headlines to focus on the underlying issues that put aboriginal women in danger.
Legebokoff is one of Canada's youngest serial killers, but there have been others who started killing as teenagers or young men.
Peter Woodcock was confined to psychiatric institutions in 1957, when he admitted killing three children, including a four-year-old girl, in Toronto and molesting at least a dozen others when he was 17 years old. He later changed his name to David Krueger, and in the early 1990s, he and another patient at a psychiatric hospital in Ontario killed a resident of the facility.
John Martin Crawford was in his late teens when he killed his first victim in Lethbridge, Alta., in 1981. He was convicted and imprisoned, but he went on to kill three more women in Saskatoon in 1992. All of Crawford's victims were aboriginal.
Michael Wayne McGray was convicted of six murders and once claimed to have killed a total of 16 people in Canada and the U.S. He killed a seventh victim while in prison in 2010. McGray would have been about 20 when he murdered his first victim in 1985.
(Prince George Citizen)