Prince George - A British Columbia judge who formally sentenced a serial killer to life in prison commended a rookie police officer for his stellar instincts, which stopped the predator from continuing to destroy more lives.
"He lacks any shred of empathy or remorse," B.C. Supreme Court Justice Glen Parrett said of Cody Legebokoff. "He should never be allowed to walk among us again."
A jury found Legebokoff guilty last week of the first-degree murders in the deaths of Jill Stuchenko and Cynthia Maas, both 35, Natasha Montgomery, 23, and 15-year-old Loren Leslie.
On Tuesday, Parrett sentenced Legebokoff to four concurrent terms of life without eligibility for parole until November 2035, calculated from the date he was arrested in 2010, although he can apply for a reduction after 15 years.
A life sentence is automatic under the Criminal Code for first-degree murder. However, Parrett also determined Legebokoff's name should be added to the national sex offender registry after finding three of the murders were committed during a sexual assault, a basis for reaching a verdict of first-degree murder.
Parrett told a packed courtroom that the conditions of the bodies that were found, though Montgomery has remained missing, show Legebokoff's intention "appeared to be aimed not simply at killing the victims, but degrading and destroying."
Legebokoff had an eight-inch height advantage over the tallest of the victims and a 100-pound weight advantage over the heaviest, Parrett said.
"These are not the actions of a simple killer but something infinitely worse," Parrett said. "This is a man who by his actions has demonstrated the absolute need to be separated from society," he said.
Parrett pointed to several examples from Legebokoff's own testimony in concluding he demonstrated "a complete void" within him.
Legebokoff showed no emotion as sheriffs led him away in cuffs as an onlooker from the gallery called on him to reveal where he had taken Montgomery's body.
Parrett commended investigators for the "good solid police work" they used to bring Legebokoff to justice but also noted that an inexperienced officer's hunch played a key role in sparking the investigation.
RCMP Const. Aaron Kehler pulled Legebokoff over for speeding on the night of Nov. 27, 2010 when he saw him driving onto Highway 27 from a rarely used logging road about 40 kilometres north of Vanderhoof, B.C.
He noticed blood on Legebokoff's face and clothes, sparking a series of events that led to the discovery of the lifeless but still-warm body of Leslie, a legally-blind 15-year-old girl, leading to a wider investigation.
If Legebokoff had not been pulled over, he could have gone on to kill more women, Parrett said.
"What followed was good, sound police work that tried to integrate separate investigations and bring them to trial," Parrett said.
Parrett also waded into the debate over a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.
"I am aware of comments being made to the effect that there is no need to embark on any formal inquiry into missing and murdered women, that policing is the solution to this problem," Parrett said.
"With the greatest of respect to those of a different view, we should all be eternally grateful to a very young and inexperienced police officer whose instincts were sound and on the money."
Parrett went on to say the issue of missing and murdered women is not "just a First Nations issue," although he noted they still represent a disproportionately high number.
"It is a sociological issue, one that arises from, among other things, a high-risk lifestyle," Parrett said. "It is something that must be dealt with."
Two of Legebokoff's victims were First Nations, and the three women were described in court as being drug-addicted sex workers.
He also said an 84 per cent cut to the budget of the Highway of Tears task force won't help victims of crime.
The force, focused on missing and murdered women along highways in B.C.'s north, at one time had 70 police officers plus support staff, and now has 12 investigators. Ten of the 18 victims are aboriginal. (Prince George Citizen)