Nova Scotia

Loretta Saunders murder suspects to be tried together

A Nova Scotia Supreme Court justice has issued two key, pre-trial rulings in the murder case of Loretta Saunders, a student at Saint Mary's University in Halifax who was killed more than a year ago.

Victoria Henneberry and Blake Leggette each charged with first-degree murder

A Nova Scotia Supreme Court justice has issued two key, pre-trial rulings in the murder case of Loretta Saunders, a student at Saint Mary's University in Halifax who was killed more than a year ago.

Saunders was killed in February 2014, the same month she was reported missing. Her former roommates, Victoria Henneberry and Blake Leggette, are each charged with first-degree murder in her death.

Leggette's lawyer had been trying to get certain evidence excluded from the trial, which is scheduled to begin Monday.

In an oral decision delivered on Tuesday, Justice Josh Arnold rejected that request.

Lawyers for both Leggette and Henneberry were also trying to get separate trials for their clients. Arnold has also rejected that request.

"Obviously disappointed," Leggette's lawyer, Terry Sheppard said. The rulings "present a challenge," he added.

Sheppard said he's prepared for Monday's scheduled start of the four-week jury trial.

"You hope for the best and plan for the worst," he told CBC News.

Sheppard also said prospective jurors will be challenged on whether pre-trial publicity might prevent them from considering the evidence fairly.

CBC News spoke with Miriam Saunders, Loretta's mother, moments after these decisions were announced.

"We're jumping for joy," Miriam Saunders said from her home in Labrador. She intends to attend the trial and had worried about the hardship it would pose for her and her family if there were two separate trials.

"It's one heavy, heavy burden lifted off us," Saunders said. "I'd like to thank the people that supported and prayed for this along with us."

Saunders's body was found along the side of the Trans-Canada Highway near Salisbury, N.B. Police believe she had been murdered in the Halifax apartment she shared with Henneberry and Leggette.

Saunders was a 26-year-old Inuk woman from Labrador who was studying criminology at Saint Mary's University. She was writing a thesis on missing and murdered aboriginal women.

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