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Legwork helps convict serial killer

Cody Legebokoff was convicted in 2014 of four counts of murder. The body of one of his victims, Natasha Montgomery, has never been recovered despite multiple search efforts. Credit: RCMP


RCMP investigators spent thousands of hours searching for evidence that ultimately convicted Cody Legebokoff of four counts of murder — making him one of Canada's youngest serial killers.

That police work began on a desolate B.C. highway in late November 2010, when the then-20-year-old man was stopped by the RCMP after his vehicle emerged from a logging road and began speeding away.

It ended almost a year later when Legebokoff was charged with murdering three women and a teenager.

"The officers didn't need to stop Cody, but they did because of a hunch," says S/Sgt Todd Cruch, the case's primary investigator.

"That's good policing," adds Cruch, now watch commander in Prince George, B.C.

Good instincts

On Nov. 27, 2010, when police pulled Legebokoff over, they noticed blood on him and a girl's backpack in the truck. He told officers he was poaching. But instead of an animal, the beaten body of his final victim, Loren Leslie, was found by a conservation officer.

Legebokoff was arrested and later charged with murdering the 15-year-old girl.

Police say he was caught red-handed. Legebokoff, however, had an explanation.

"He said he was four wheeling, found the body and freaked," says S/Sgt. Greg Yanicki, one of several interviewers. "It seemed like a convenient explanation, but I didn't believe it."

Later, and with a second interviewer and the suspect's girlfriend, Legebokoff admitted to hitting Leslie with a wrench but not killing her. She was already dead from self-inflicted wounds, he claimed.

"Cody had to account for the encounter and that was his explanation," says Supt. Paul Dadwal, another interviewer.

Around the same time, one officer was making a connection between Leslie and Cynthia Maas, 35, whose body was discovered months before.

As team commander and head of the Northern District Major Crime Unit, Insp. Lorne Wood was at the Leslie crime scene and was familiar with the Maas case.

"Based on the wounds and positioning of Leslie's body and clothing, I felt there was a connection and asked: 'Could this be something bigger,'" says Wood, who decided to contact investigators in the Maas homicide.

Legebokoff denied knowing Maas, but that didn't satisfy police.

Digging deeper

Investigators collected evidence from Legebokoff's truck and homes. Clothes and suspected weapons were carefully delivered to forensic labs across North America to find DNA that matched victims. Photographs were taken and examined while crime-scene and autopsy reports were revisited.

"After the search of Legebokoff's apartment, a piece of carpet with blood staining was among the items analyzed," says Wood. "The lab called me directly to say that they had 'found my killer' and that the blood had been matched to Natasha Montgomery."

The 23-year-old was last seen in August or September 2010.

"This was the first time that she was linked in any way to Legebokoff," Wood says.

DNA from the apartment also linked the accused to Maas and Jill Stuchenko.

Stuchenko, 35, died from multiple blows to the head and her blood was found on a couch seized from Legebokoff's apartment. A pickaroon — an axe-like tool for logging — and another axe were seized.

"The pickeroon contained Maas's DNA and the axe had Montgomery's," says Cruch, who noted that members of the Forensic Identification Services unit found a blood-stained footprint on Legebokoff`s kitchen floor, which turned out to be his bare foot in Montgomery's blood.

According to police, Stuchenko, Maas and Montgomery worked in the sex trade and Legebokoff used them to get drugs. Police discovered Legobokoff and Leslie met on the social networking website Nexopia.

"There are parts of the investigation that continued for months and years after the charges were laid," says Wood.

More than 4,000 people were contacted about the case, which ultimately produced 195 police witnesses and 95,000 pages of evidence.

At his trial, which began in June 2014, Legebokoff said Stuchenko, Maas and Montgomery were killed by a drug dealer he would not name.

The trial ended on Sept. 10, 2014. Legebokoff was found guilty of four counts of first degree murder. He was convicted the next day.

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