PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. — A British Columbia judge used the sentencing of a serial killer to wade into the debate about an inquiry into missing and murdered women, saying it would be a “mistake” to treat the phenomenon simply as one for police to solve.
Supreme Court Justice Glen Parrett did not explicitly come out in favour of an inquiry, but he suggested something must be done to address the underlying causes that put aboriginal women at risk.
Parrett sentenced 24-year-old Cody Legebokoff, one of Canada’s youngest serial killers, to life in prison with no parole for 25 years during a hearing in Prince George on Tuesday.
Legebokoff was convicted last week of four counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Jill Stuchenko and Cynthia Maas, both 35, Natasha Montgomery, 23, and 15-year-old Loren Leslie. Two were aboriginal; Stuchenko, Maas and Montgomery struggled with addiction and turned to sex work.
Parrett noted the case was unfolding amid growing calls for a national inquiry into missing and murdered women.
The federal government has repeatedly turned down calls for an inquiry, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who said the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women was a crime problem and not a “sociological phenomenon.”
“It is a sociological issue — one that arises from, among other things, a high-risk life style,” Parrett said. “It is something that must be dealt with.”
The judge continued: “It is a mistake, in my view, to limit the seriousness of this issue and to pretend, as some do, that policing is an answer when the circumstances of this case raise questions about the effectiveness of that process at times.”
Still, Parrett acknowledged the role of police, particularly in Legebokoff’s case. An RCMP officer who encountered Legebokoff by chance on a remote highway four years ago pulled him over, setting off a chain of events that led to the young man’s arrest.
“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.”
Legebokoff was arrested on Nov. 27, 2010, after murdering Leslie, a legally blind 15-year-old girl.
RCMP Const. Aaron Kehler pulled Legebokoff over for speeding when he saw him driving onto Highway 27 from a rarely used logging road about 40 kilometres north of Vanderhoof, B.C.
The trial heard that the officer noticed blood on Legebokoff’s face and clothes, which led to the discovery of Leslie’s body.
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 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 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.
Republished via The Canadian Press