Warning: The following story contains graphic details.
When he was pulled over by police in November, 2010, Cody Legebokoff allegedly told them a smear of blood under his chin was from poaching deer.
A conservation officer was called to investigate and what he found set the stage for Mr. Legebokoff's trial on four counts of first-degree murder that began Monday in this northern B.C. community.
The conservation officer discovered the body of 15-year-old, legally blind Loren Leslie, face-down under an evergreen tree. The Crown, in its opening statement, said that set off a chain reaction in which DNA from three other women was linked to Mr. Legebokoff.
Mr. Legebokoff, who was 20 years old when he was arrested, has pleaded not guilty. He is also charged in the deaths of Jill Stuchenko, Cynthia Maas, and Natasha Montgomery.
Their cases are not classified as part of the RCMP's "highway of tears" investigation – 18 cases involving homicides or disappearances of women from 1969 to 2006. But the themes of poverty and vulnerability are apparent. The Crown said Ms. Stuchenko, Ms. Maas and Ms. Montgomery had previously worked in the sex trade. Mr. Temple said Mr. Legebokoff was addicted to cocaine and sought out sex workers to help him obtain it.
The Crown's 30-minute opening statement was, at times, extremely graphic, as prosecutor Joseph Temple told the jury about the various traumas, fractures, and wounds the women suffered. All four, Mr. Temple said, were horrifically beaten.
Ms. Stuchenko, 35, died from multiple blows to the head. Her body was found in a gravel pit in October, 2009.
Ms. Maas, 35, was found dead in a park in October, 2010, from blunt force trauma and penetrating wounds to the chest. Someone may have stomped on her neck, the Crown said. She had defence wounds and her pants were rolled down to her ankles.
The body of Ms. Montgomery, 23, was never found, though the Crown said her DNA was discovered on Mr. Legebokoff's shorts and hoodie. It said her DNA was also found throughout his apartment, and on his axe.
The case against Mr. Legebokoff began with Ms. Leslie, the Crown said.
Mr. Temple said text messages show Ms. Leslie met with Mr. Legebokoff the night she died. He said they had first start talking on the social networking site Nexopia.
Mr. Temple said Mr. Legebokoff had told Ms. Leslie not to tell anyone they were meeting. She replied, "Well, we're just hanging out, right?" and said there would be nothing sexual. She added that she was 15.
After her body was discovered, with her pants rolled down, Mr. Temple said Mr. Legebokoff told police he hadn't been poaching after all and had come across Ms. Leslie's body on the trail. Mr. Temple said Mr. Legebokoff said he did not know who Ms. Leslie was. Her monkey backpack was found in his vehicle.
He later told police he had previously met her, but that she had inflicted the injuries on herself, the Crown said. After that, he said she was badly hurt as a result of attacking herself and that he had to hit her twice to "put her out of her misery," the Crown said.
The defence has not had an opportunity to lay out its case. Mr. Legebokoff was in court Monday, but sat expressionless.
The trial is expected to run six to eight months.
The first witness to testify was Ms. Montgomery's father, Todd Esson. He described her as a loving mother of two. He said she had been recently released from jail and was excited about starting her new life.
Murders and disappearances in Northern B.C. feature prominently in calls by aboriginal leaders across the country for an inquiry.