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Lawyer for accused serial killer asks jury for second-degree murder conviction

Cody Legebokoff is shown in a B.C. RCMP handout photo. The lawyer for a British Columbia man accused of killing three women and a 15-year-old girl has asked the jury to convict his client of second-degree murder. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - B.C. RCMP

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Cody Legebokoff is shown in a B.C. RCMP handout photo. The lawyer for a British Columbia man accused of killing three women and a 15-year-old girl has asked the jury to convict his client of second-degree murder. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - B.C. RCMP

PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. — The lawyer for a British Columbia man accused of killing three women and a 15-year-old girl has asked the jury to convict his client of second-degree murder, not first-degree murder as charged.

James Heller said Tuesday that his client, 24-year-old Cody Legebokoff, admitted in B.C. Supreme Court last week that he was present when the women died but that he didn't murder them and that the girl killed herself.

Legebokoff testified that the women were killed by a drug dealer and two associates and handed them the murder weapons. But he refused to name his alleged accomplices, saying he didn't want to go to prison being labelled a "rat."

Legebokoff is charged with 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.

Heller told the jury there is reasonable doubt that the murders were planned and deliberate.

He said he didn't expect jurors to believe every word of Legebokoff's testimony but he hoped they would consider the plausibility of some of his statements.

Heller went through evidence indicating the women were drug users and that Stuchenko and Montgomery had drug debts.

One witness testified he paid off a $500 debt for Stuchenko and another said Montgomery's head was shaved because she owed money.

Whether Maas was in debt was more questionable according to the evidence Heller reviewed.

Legebokoff told police that Loren Leslie, a partially blind 15-year-old girl, went crazy and began hitting herself with a pipe wrench and then appeared to have stabbed herself with a knife before she was found on the night of Nov. 27, 2010, near a gravel pit north of Vanderhoof, B.C.

He said that in a fit of panic he hit Leslie on the head before dragging her body into the bush and then fled the scene in his pickup truck. Shortly after he drove onto Highway 27, an RCMP officer pulled him over for speeding and noticed blood on him and in his truck.

Heller noted that Leslie had been released from 18 days in psychiatric care less than a week before her death and an RCMP officer found evidence that she had been overdosing on medication prescribed to her on the day of her release.

The psychiatrist who was working with Leslie "seemed to minimize a little bit what appeared to be some of the problematic aspects of her mental defect," Heller said, telling jurors they did not have to "accept every last aspect of (an expert witness's testimony) as gospel."

Heller reviewed evidence showing Legebokoff was a drug user who consumed cocaine and crack cocaine.

He also noted that despite an exhaustive search of Legebokoff's truck, no evidence of Montgomery or Stuchenko was found in the vehicle. Heller said a tire track investigators came across at the gravel pit where Stuchenko's body was discovered on Oct. 20, 2009 was found not to be from his client's truck.

He said no forensic evidence indicating Maas had been in Legebokoff's apartment was uncovered nor was evidence of who may have handled a pickaroon, allegedly the weapon used to kill her, found by investigators.

Maas's body was found in a park on Oct. 9, 2010. Legebokoff testified he helped dispose of it but that someone else used a pickaroon, a log-handling tool, which he said he'd stored in his truck.

(CKPG, The Canadian Press)

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Updated on Tuesday, September 2, 2014 at 8:20 PM CDT:
Updates with write-thru.

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