Police have laid first-degree murder charges against the roommates of Loretta Saunders, a Halifax student whose body was found nearly two weeks after she was reported missing.
Victoria Henneberry, 28, and Blake Leggette, 25, who had been facing charges of being in possession of a stolen vehicle, were charged Thursday in the slaying of the 26-year-old Saint Mary's University student.
"The case was very fluid. Ms. Saunders was originally reported as a missing person. Through the investigation by our officers and integrated criminal investigations, there was some suspicions noted and we are pleased to announce that we’ve laid charges today," said Halifax Regional Police Supt. Jim Perrin.
"First-degree murder, there has to be some planning to the crime and our investigators are satisfied that that existed and that’s why the appropriate charges were laid today."
Perrin confirmed that police suspect Saunders was killed Feb. 13 in an apartment located at 41 Cowie Hill Dr. That's the address of the unit where Leggette and Henneberry lived with Saunders.
Her body was found Wednesday afternoon on the median of Route 2 of the Trans-Canada Highway, west of Salisbury, N.B. Forensic investigators from both Halifax police and RCMP in New Brunswick are working on the case.
Saunders was last seen in the Cowie Hill Road area of Halifax on the morning of Feb. 13. Five days later, her car was located in Harrow, Ont.
Yalcin Surkultay, who dated Saunders for 2½ years, told CBC News that when he last saw his girlfriend, she told him she was going to try to collect rent money from her roommates.
Henneberry's old roommate speaks
Krystina Latham, 20, knew both Henneberry and Saunders.
In the summer of 2012, Latham said, she and Henneberry lived together for a few months in a hotel room. She wouldn't go into detail about why she and Henneberry were living in a hotel, but said those were "rough times."
"I used to live with her, Victoria, I used to hang out with her at one time. Then she ran away and never came back."
Coincidentally, Latham now lives in the Cowie Hill apartment building where Saunders lived, and where police believe she died.
Latham said she and Saunders would say "hi" to each other in the hallway.
"It's depressing that someone could actually do that. She was a very nice girl and she did not deserve this at all. My other thoughts are — I think those people should be put away, forever, and never see the face of earth because Loretta didn't deserve this," she said.
"She was such a smart girl. She had her head on her shoulders and she didn't deserve this."
Latham said even though she and Henneberry lived in close quarters during the few months they were roommates, Henneberry didn’t talk much about her past.
"All I can tell you is she's lived in homeless shelters — that's all I really know," said Latham
Latham said she knew Henneberry as a "nice girl."
"I knew the person, Victoria. I can't believe she'd do something like this. I really couldn't picture her doing this," she said.
"She was a sweetheart. But for her to do this — she ain't sweet."
Leggette's aunt, Maureen Everick, told CBC News in a statement how badly her family feels for the Saunders family.
"Our entire family is worried sick about Loretta’s family and how they are coping with this — to the point that our whole family is sick to our stomachs at what has taken place," said Everick.
Autopsy to be performed
An autopsy will be performed on Saunders' remains, which have been transported to the coroner services office in Saint John.
Police will not say how Saunders was killed, only that it's part of the evidence in the murder case against Leggette and Henneberry.
"I can't imagine what a tragic event this is for Ms. Saunders' family and friends and we're glad we were able to bring this to some sort of conclusion quickly," said Perrin.
Both Leggette and Henneberry are scheduled to appear in Halifax provincial court on Friday on the murder charges.