ns-kostin-sergei

Sergei Kostin was reported missing on Jan. 17, 2009. His body was found in April of that year. ((HRP))

A Dartmouth man charged with first-degree murder in the death of a cab driver pleaded not guilty on Monday as he was formally arraigned.

Chaze Lamar Thompson, 22, is charged in the 2009 death of Dartmouth taxi driver Sergei Kostin, a long-time cabbie who moved to Canada from Ukraine.

Jury selection got underway Monday morning as Thompson's trial began. Dozens of people showed up at Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax for jury duty.

However, by the end of the day, only four jurors had been selected.

Justice Glen MacDougall has agreed to challenge for cause, meaning every prospective juror is being asked whether pre-trial publicity or racial bias will prevent them from hearing the case fairly.

Six weeks have been set aide for the trial.

Kostin was reported missing in January 2009, after he was last seen picking up a fare at a variety store on Gaston Road in Dartmouth. Three days later, the burned-out remains of his cab were found at the end of Downey Road in North Preston.

On April 1, 2009, Kostin's body was discovered in woods off Upper Governor Street in North Preston, about a kilometre from where his cab was found. Police have not said how Kostin died.

Kostin had no family in the Halifax area — his wife and other relatives live in his native Ukraine — and he was a driver for Bob's Taxi for about 10 years.

Thompson was charged in January 2010, almost a year after Kostin was first reported missing.