A jury in Prince George, B.C., has found Cody Alan Legebokoff guilty on four counts of first-degree murder.
The 24-year-old was charged in the slayings of Loren Donn Leslie, Jill Stacey Stuchenko, Cynthia Frances Maas and Natasha Lynn Montgomery, who died in 2009 and 2010.
Neil MacKenzie, a spokesman for B.C.'s Criminal Justice Branch, said it has been a long and challenging process for family members.
"We understand that the loss that they've suffered, and that the victims of the crimes include the surviving family members and friends of the women and young woman who lost their lives," he said.
The victims were daughters, friends, and some were sisters and mothers, MacKenzie added.
Jill Stuchenko was 35 when she became Legebokoff's first victim. The mother of five was found dead in a gravel pit off Otway Road, on the outskirts of Prince George, in 2009.
Crown counsel said that Stuchenko died from blunt force trauma to her head.
Stuchenko's family members did not speak outside the courthouse following the reading of the verdict, but a crowd of family members and supporters of all four families did assemble to hear statements.
Body of 2nd victim never found
Natasha Montgomery, 23, originally from Quesnel, was reported missing in August 2010. Her body has not been found, but Crown counsel said in court that several items, including shirts, shorts, bedsheets, a comforter and an axe found in Legebokoff`s apartment tested positive for her DNA.
Robert Donovan, Montgomery's grandfather, said he thought he could handle hearing about his granddaughter's death in court, but he was wrong.
"I couldn't take it … when they were playing the testimony … about how he murdered her, about all that he'd done to her, I just broke down," he told reporters outside the courthouse after Thursday's verdict. "I couldn't take it. I thought I was a big tough guy, but big tough guys fall apart too."
"It was a relief," Marlene Donovan, Montgomery's step-grandmother said of hearing the verdict. But the story is far from over for her extended family, she said.
"We will have satisfaction when he lets us know where Natasha is and gives [her] back to LuAnn," she said. "She needs her daughter back."
Mother LuAnn Montgomery spoke briefly following the verdict.
"It's not over for me. I still don't have Natasha back, and I want to remind the public to keep an eye out for her remains," she said.
Sister thanks First Nations' support
Cynthia Maas, 35, went missing in September 2010. Her remains were found in L.C. Gunn Park, in a remote area of Prince George, the following month.
Her sister, Judy Maas, was present for the reading of the verdict against Legebokoff, and she spoke publicly outside the courthouse afterward.
"This verdict is bittersweet," she said. "All we wanted in this system was justice. Even though my sister is gone and we will never get her back through this we will have a sense of justice that it was first degree-murder and we are really happy with that."
Maas thanked the Carrier Sekani First Nation members and the drummers who came out to the courthouse when news broke that the jury was returning with a verdict.
"The womens' warrior song that they sang was incredibly powerful," she said.
The high-profile trial was not only difficult for the families but also emotional for the community, which lives with constant reminders of the number of unsolved murders and disappearances of women — many of them vulnerable women, and many of them aboriginal women — in northern British Columbia.
- Federal program focuses on 'root causes' of missing, murdered aboriginal women
- Highway of Tears communities want fixes from B.C.
Maas says that although her sister and Legebokoff's two adult victims were sex trade workers, that fact should not be used to label or somehow dismiss them.
"They weren't 'just' a drug addict and they weren't 'just' a sex trade worker. They were loved. They're missed," she said.
Arrest came after killing 15-year-old
Police only cracked those cases after the death of a 15-year-old girl from Fraser Lake who had met Legebokoff online.
Loren Leslie, 15, was found dead on a remote logging road just off Highway 27 near Vanderhoof, B.C., in November 2010.
Legebokoff was arrested after an RCMP officer stopped him after he was spotted turning onto the highway from that unused logging road. The officer reported seeing a blood smear on Legebokoff's face and legs, and there was a pool of blood in the truck.
A conservation officer, suspecting poaching, went up the logging road to investigate and found Leslie's body.
Investigators determined she had died only several hours before Legebokoff had been arrested.
Legebokoff had pleaded guilty to four counts of second-degree murder in B.C. Supreme Court, testifying that he was present at the deaths of the three women and the teenage girl, but that he did not commit the murders.
That plea was not accepted by the court.
After Thursday's convictions, Doug Leslie, Loren's father, thanked the diligent RCMP officer who stopped Legebokoff that night and allowed his daughter's body to be found.
He said he wasn't offended in court when Legebokoff put forward the theory that Leslie had been trying to kill herself.
"How can you be offended with something that's not real?" Leslie said.
A sentencing hearing has yet to take place, but a finding of guilt on a charge of first-degree murder in Canada carries an automatic life sentence with no possibility of parole for 25 years.
Legebokoff, who was 19 when the first murder took place, is not Canada's youngest serial killer.
In 1957 17-year-old Peter Woodcock was imprisoned for the rape and murder of three young children in Toronto.
He was found not guilty by reason of insanity and spent the rest of his life behind bars, but still managed to kill another inmate before his own death in 2010.
An earlier version of this story mistakenly said Cody Legebokoff was Canada's youngest serial killer.Sep 12, 2014 11:32 AM PT