British Columbia

B.C. cold case killer sentenced to 15 years

Neil Snelson, the man found guilty of manslaughter for killing Kelowna, B.C., college student Jennifer Cusworth, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison.

WARNING: This story contains graphic details

Snelson sentencing


9 years ago
Convicted killer Neil Snelson was sentenced to 15 years in prison, reports the CBC's Leia Hutchings 2:13

Neil Snelson, the man found guilty of killing Jennifer Cusworth, was sentenced to 15 years in prison by the B.C. Supreme Court in Kelowna, B.C., on Friday afternoon.

A provincial judge also ruled Snelson sexually assaulted the college student before killing her in 1993 and said the killing leaned far closer towards murder than an accidental killing.

Cusworth's beaten body was found in a ditch in Kelowna in October, 1993. She had been strangled and bludgeoned to death.

The case sat cold for 16 years with little movement and no suspects. In 2009, RCMP linked a blood sample to DNA found on Cusworth's body.

Cusworth's mother Jean told reporters outside the courthouse she accepted the sentence.

"I'm not thrilled with it, I wanted life, but I'll accept 15 years. At least he hasn't got a walk."

In October, a jury found Snelson, now 45, guilty of manslaughter in Cusworth's death.

After a two-day sentencing hearing,  a provincial judge credited Neil Snelson with double time served for the two years he has already spent in prison. The remainder of his sentence is 11 years.

Defence lawyers had argued for an eight- to 12-year prison sentence. Crown lawyers were asking for 16 to 20 years.

On Thursday, family and friends delivered victim impact statements that could affect how the judge rules on sentencing.

Terry and Jean Cusworth lay flowers at the site where their 19-year-old daughter's body was found in October, 1993. (Brady Strachan/CBC)

Cusworth's uncle, Ted Morris — whom the teen was staying with at the time of her death — told the court about his feelings of guilt for not protecting her.

"Mr. Snelson has children. Does he ever worry about his daughters meeting someone like him?" Morris asked.

People in the courtroom wept as Cusworth's parents, Jean and Terry, read a lengthy statement to the court about the pain and anguish they had suffered since their daughter's death.

"An incredibly painful journey began when Jennifer was brutally taken from us. Our whole world was turned upside down," they said.

"We know we can never bring her back, but we can give her the justice she deserves. Help us give her this justice with a lengthy sentence."

Crown reveals shocking new evidence

After the victim impact statements were delivered, Crown counsel made one final push to secure a lengthy prison sentence for Snelson.

Crown prosecutor Iain Currie revealed shocking new information to the judge, aiming to discredit character references made by the defence.

Currie said that while Snelson was under surveillance in 2009, police followed him to Orchard Park Mall in Kelowna, where they spotted Snelson watching women and masturbating in his vehicle.

He said police also intercepted internet traffic into Snelson's home and logged over 80,000 images that were classified as violent pornography.

The Crown suggested it was Snelson's sexual urges that pushed him to kidnap and sexually assault Cusworth before killing her in 1993, and said this evidence shows Snelson still has those urges. 

Snelson's defence lawyer, Wade Jensen, argued there's no way to determine if Snelson viewed those images and that sex with Cusworth before she was killed was consensual.

With files from the CBC's Leia Hutchings and Brady Strachan