Edmonton

Edmonton man pleads guilty to killing teen in 2017 hit-and-run

An Edmonton man has pleaded guilty to killing 18-year old Jade Belcourt in a drug-fuelled 2017 hit-and-run.

Court documents say 18-year old killed after planned robbery turned violent

Justin Handbury pleaded guilty Monday to dangerous driving causing death and dangerous driving causing bodily harm. (Edmonton Police Service)

An Edmonton man pleaded guilty Monday to killing a teenager in a drug-fuelled 2017 hit-and-run.

Justin Neil Handbury pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing death and dangerous driving causing bodily harm.

A 10-day jury trial had been scheduled to begin Monday in Edmonton Court of Queen's Bench, but jurors were dismissed shortly before Handbury entered his guilty pleas.

Jade Belcourt, 18, was killed in May 2017 when a planned drug robbery turned violent, according to the agreed statement facts. 

Handbury, who was 31 at the time, was driving a stolen Ford F-150 pickup when he arrived at Belcourt's family home in west Edmonton on May 22, 2017.

In his backpack, Handbury had $400 in cash and an unspecified quantity of methamphetamine and shatter, a glasslike cannabis concentrate. 

He had made arrangements to sell drugs to Belcourt's sister-in-law. Belcourt and his brother made plans to rob Handbury.

The group all sampled some of the drugs in the garage after Handbury arrived. Belcourt's brother then told Handbury to hand over the rest of the supply. When he refused, a fight broke out.

'It escalated so quickly'

Hit in the head with a broom stick and punched in the face, Handbury was bloodied and bruised when he fled into the fenced yard, where the brothers wrestled away his backpack.

Handbury retreated to a truck parked on the other side of the fence. Armed with a baseball bat, Belcourt smashed the windshield, then turned toward the house. 

Handbury drove into Belcourt and crashed through part of the fence, according to the agreed statement of facts. Wood from the fence hit Belcourt's brother in the face, cutting him just above the eyebrow. 

With the truck in reverse, Handbury ran over the teenager a second time. 

He admitted on Monday he intended to drive the truck toward Belcourt.

The fence was cracked and sagging after it was hit by the stolen pickup truck. (CBC Edmonton)

Michael Duggan watched some of the altercation from his nearby home. He was set to testify as a witness on Monday until Handbury pleaded guilty. 

"It was a little scary that it happened so quickly, that it escalated so quickly," he said outside court.

Belcourt was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

After he fled the scene, Handbury abandoned the truck on a rural property in Wetaskiwin. The property owner found the truck the next day and called police. 

Handbury turned himself in at the Sherwood Park RCMP detachment on May 24, 2017, two days after the incident. 

He faced charges in Dryaton Valley at the time and was under a lengthy set of bail conditions. He didn't have a valid drivers licence following a 2015 conviction of criminal flight from police. 

Police originally charged Handbury with second-degree murder but withdrew that charge the next day. Ten months later, he was charged with dangerous driving causing death and dangerous driving causing bodily harm. 

In court Monday, multiple scars were visible on the right side of Handbury's head.

His sentencing is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. Belcourt's mother is expected to deliver a victim impact statement.