Nova Scotia

Details of Loretta Saunders murder written by Blake Leggette

Prison guards discovered a detailed account of Loretta Saunders's murder during a search of Blake Leggette's cell at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility.

'Going to be blaming Victoria for it so I don't do life in prison,' Leggette wrote

Blake Leggette pleaded guilty on Wednesday to first-degree murder in the death of Saint Mary's University student Loretta Saunders. (Mike Dembeck/The Canadian Press)

In the end, it could be said that Blake Leggette's fate was sealed by a mop.

On April 7, 2014, guards at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility — better known as the Burnside jail in the Halifax area — discovered a mop handle was missing. Fearing that someone had lopped it off to fashion it into a weapon, guards launched a search of the jail's west block the next day.

Around 3:30 that afternoon, guards arrived at West 7, Cell 5 — the cell Leggette shared with Darcy Cory. Jillian Lucas, a guard, told a pre-trial hearing that as she searched the cell, she discovered a cylinder on a bookshelf that could have contained the missing mop handle.

The object Lucas discovered was two toilet paper rolls. Court was told the toilet paper rolls were joined together with toothpaste.

Leggette and his lawyer, Terry Sheppard, argued the tube was covered in a white label bearing the words "legal, personal and confidential." That label, Sheppard said, should have prevented the search from going any further.

Two other jail guards told court they didn't see the label.

'I want to get this book deal on the go'

Lucas told court she discarded the label, but that she didn't remember seeing the word "legal." The label was later recovered from a desk in the cell.

Lucas testified there was writing on the outside of the toilet paper rolls, describing the contents as personal and confidential and belonging to Cory, Leggette's cellmate.

Lucas opened the rolls and discovered a sheaf of 35 pages of paper. She told court she fanned through the handwritten pages and saw the word "weapon." However, when challenged in court to find the word, Lucas spent several minutes searching before admitting it wasn't there.

On the strength of what she thought she saw, Lucas called in her supervisor, who discovered the papers contained Leggette's account of the events surrounding Loretta Saunders's death.

One page was titled: "People I would like to be mentioned in the book."

At a voir dire during the preliminary inquiry and again at a pre-trial hearing in Nova Scotia Supreme Court, Leggette denied the pages were a draft for a book. Yet, the handwritten pages included entries such as, "I want to get this book deal on the go." He also talked about spinning the story into gold.

'She will be going away for life'

Leggette focused a lot of his writing on his co-accused and ex-girlfriend, Victoria Henneberry.

"You stabbed me in the back and spit on me," he wrote. "I loved you."

In an entry dated March 7, 2014, Leggette wrote of Henneberry: "After everything I've done for her, she's become a rat." He wrote that Henneberry was talking "like a leaky faucet."

Leggette also wrote that he "put the wrong one in the bag." This is likely a reference to the hockey bag used to carry Saunders's body from the apartment building.

"She will be going away for life," Leggette wrote. "Going to be blaming Victoria for it so I don't do life in prison."

It was after discussing the contents of Leggette's writings that there was an angry outburst at the preliminary inquiry in this case. One of Saunders's uncles lunged towards the two accused.

Leggette and Henneberry were hustled from the courtroom as sheriff's deputies poured in to contain the situation.

It was Saunders's own family who defused the situation, telling her uncle over and over again, "We're here for Loretta."

Just days before the murder trial was to begin, presiding judge Josh Arnold rejected a defence request to exclude Leggette's writings from the evidence that would be presented to the jury.

Following that ruling, Leggette's lawyer Sheppard described the writings as "problematic," and questioned their value.

In the end, Leggette's guilty plea to first-degree murder meant he didn't have to explain the purpose behind his writings.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Blair Rhodes

Reporter

Blair Rhodes has been a journalist for more than 35 years, the last 27 with CBC. His primary focus is on stories of crime and public safety. He can be reached at blair.rhodes@cbc.ca

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