A northern B.C. man has been sentenced to life in prison after being convicted in the sex slaying of a 13-year-old girl plucked from West Edmonton Mall, while his co-accused has been acquitted on all charges.
Justice Brian Burrows handed down the verdicts Friday in Court of Queen's Bench in Edmonton. He found Joseph Laboucan, a 21-year-old from Fort St. John,guiltyof the kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault and first-degree murder of Nina Courtepatte.
Michael Briscoe, a 36-year-old man from Edmonton, was found not guilty on all charges in the slaying of Courtepatte, whosebruised and bloody body was found on the Edmonton Springs Golf Course in April 2005.
As the judge read out the charges, Laboucan, looking stunned,stared at the floor while Briscoe began to weep.
A littleover anhour later, Burrows sentenced Laboucan tolifein prison, with no chance of parole for 25years.
Mother will miss her 'shining star'
Duringthe victim impact statements, Peacha Atkinson and her youngest daughter, Annie, stood together in the witness stand holding each other's hands.
Atkinson said she would miss her "shining star" forever and wished that she could build a bridge to heaven with her tears and memories so she could bringher daughterback.
Laboucan maintained his innocence when he addressed the court, buthe did apologize to the Courtepatte family.
"I should have saved your daughter," he told them. "I didn't. I let her down."
Outside court, Courtepatte's uncle, Gord Atkinson, said Laboucan would "bullshit right to his grave about this."
Atkinson said the family was disappointed with Briscoe's acquittal. "Briscoe was just as involved as Laboucan. He was there."
'My son didn't do it. He just stood there like a dummy.' —Michael Briscoe's mother, Violet
Briscoe's mother, Violet, said she wished she could take away some of the Courtepatte family's pain.
"But I can't," she said. "My son didn't do it. He just stood there like a dummy."
She said she prayed so hard throughout the trial that she got bruises on her knees, but she never lost hope that her son would be acquitted.
Briscoe once told her that he was "at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people," she said.
Laboucan's lawyer, Laurie Wood, said she planned to appeal the verdict.
"He's devastated. He's very upset at the conviction. My client has maintained he's not guilty."
Victim was 'the chosen one,' court heard
Court heard that Courtepatte and her friend were picked out of a crowd at West Edmonton Mall and driven withBriscoe, Laboucan and three teenagersto the golf course on thepromise ofa bush party.
Courtepatte'sfriend testified thatafter arrivingat a desolate fairway,one of the female teenagers "started talking about a ritual and how they kill someone and bring them back from the dead."
The 13-year-old was sexually assaulted, strangled,stabbed and bludgeoned by a hammer. A medical examiner testified that an autopsy showed she suffered up to 15 cuts and lacerations to her head.
The friend saw part of the attack on Courtepatte before being taken back to the car. When she later asked why Courtepatte had been attacked, Laboucan told her: "She was the chosen one."
Burrows was left to sift through a contradictory jumble of testimony and police statements from the defendants and witnesses.
Both defendants tried to portray themselves as pawns swept away by events.
Briscoe, who never testified but gave an extensive statement to police, said he was just the driver of the car and was along mostly to keep his girlfriend out of trouble.
Laboucan testified that he thought he was going to a party. His lawyer argued thathis client, anout-of-towner who had previously rejected the mall-rat life, had been set up by the others.
In his written decision, Burrows described Laboucan's testimony as "radically inconsistent with the evidence of other witnesses who have no, or at least less, reason to be untruthful."
3 others charged in slaying
Three otherpeople faced the same charges as the accused.
A young man, who can't be named because he is a young offender, has already pleaded guilty to a charge of first-degree murder in Courtepatte's death.
A 19-year-old, who also can't be named, is currentlybeing tried on charges offirst-degree murder, aggravated sexual assault and kidnapping.
A fifth defendant, a young woman, is scheduled to be tried laterin the year.