British Columbia

Man convicted of killing Vancouver woman, 27 years after her death

The circumstances surrounding the death of 23-year-old Vicki Black have remained a mystery ever since her body was discovered in Vancouver in early March 1993. On Tuesday, Stephen Laroche was convicted of manslaughter for her death.

Vicki Black's case had been opened and closed many times over the past 2 decades

The body of Vicki Black, 23, was found in a dumpster behind an East Vancouver restaurant in 1993. (B.C. RCMP)

The circumstances surrounding the death of 23-year-old Vicki Black have remained a mystery ever since her body was first discovered in Vancouver in early March 1993.

Now, after more than a quarter-century, the case has legal closure. 

In B.C. Supreme Court on Tuesday, Stephen Laroche pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Vicki Black. He was sentenced to 10 years minus credit for 14 months of time served.

"This was a completely pointless killing of Ms. Black," said Crown prosecutor Daniel Mulligan after court heard the agreed statement of facts of her death.

DNA evidence

The case of Black's death had been opened and closed many times prior to Laroche's conviction.

After two years, the original investigation was closed when investigators were unable to identify a suspect. 

It wasn't until recently, when a DNA connection was made to Laroche, that officers were able to make a case. 

Laroche was in the system because he had previously been sentenced to life in prison for killing a woman in Manitoba in 1996. He was granted full parole in 2007.

The court heard how, during an undercover investigation into Laroche, he admitted to an officer that he killed a woman in the early 1990s in Vancouver.

He explained how he picked up Vicki Black — although he didn't remember her name — and took her back to his apartment where they did drugs and had sex.

But the pair got into an argument over payment, with Black threatening Laroche that she would send her friends to assault him. He told the undercover officer that he got so angry he strangled Black.

He later wrapped her body in a sheet and moved it to a dumpster in an East Vancouver alley. 

Joint sentencing submission

In court, both the Crown and defence entered a joint sentencing submission, noting how Laroche pleaded guilty at the earliest availability to avoid a lengthier trial.

Although he has also been convicted of another killing, the defence reminded the court that in 1993, at the time of Black's death, this was Laroche's first offence.

"For purpose of sentencing, he is to be treated as a first offender," said Karin Blok, the defence lawyer.

The joint submission asked for the sentence of 10 years minus time served and Justice Heather Holmes agreed.

"I'm very sorry for what I've done to Vicki Black and her family and friends. It was despicable," said Laroche as he addressed the court shortly before sentencing.

"I left family and friends with questions of who and why and I hope that I am able to give them closure by being here. I'm grateful for the chance to plead guilty."

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