Ottawa

DNA evidence links Leduc to killings of 2 'vulnerable' women, Crown contends

The trial of an Ottawa man accused of killing two women in 2008 and 2011 hears the Crown's opening statements, as well as testimony from several witnesses.

WARNING: Some of the details in this story are graphic in nature and may disturb some readers

Pamela Kosmack and Leeanne Lawson were "vulnerable" women who were "brutally murdered" during violent struggles at the hands of Marc Leduc, the Crown told the jury during her opening statements.

Leduc, 59, is being tried on two counts of first-degree murder, for which he has pleaded not guilty. Lisa Miles outlined the Crown's case in broad strokes Thursday, saying she and James Cavanagh intend to prove the crimes were sexually motivated, and that Leduc had the motive to do it.

The badly beaten body of Kosmack, 39, was found naked from the waist down on June 4, 2008, by Carole Doiron, who was walking a dog on a bike path close to Britannia Park, Miles told the jury.

Pamela Kosmack, left, was found dead near a bike path close to Britannia Park in 2008. Leeanne Lawson, right, was found dead in a parking lot in Ottawa's Lowertown neighbourhood in 2011. (CBC)

The body of Lawson, 23, was found by an Ottawa police officer more than three years later, on Sept. 2, 2011, also naked from the waist down, lying face down between a fence and a Hydro Ottawa substation on King Edward Avenue.

Foreign objects had been left in both women, they had both been dragged short distances from where the struggles appeared to have taken place, both were beaten mainly about the head, and autopsies concluded they both died of neck compression that showed signs of manual strangulation, Miles told the jury.

DNA from the same male was found in multiple places on both women, including on bite marks, and while both women worked in the sex trade, only that male's DNA was found at the scenes, Miles told the jury.

Slim chance DNA belongs to anyone else, Crown says

That DNA profile was linked in 2013 to Marc Leduc. The chances of another man matching that DNA profile range from one in 98 trillion to one in 890 quadrillion, depending on the sample, Miles told the jury.

Leduc also had personal connections to Kosmack and Lawson, Miles told court. He and Kosmack frequented the same Britannia pub, and Leduc's daughter told investigators that Leduc mentioned Kosmack several times, nicknaming her "Toonie" because Kosmack often asked for them.

As for Lawson, Miles told court she and Leduc were both living at the Shepherds of Good Hope in 2011, that they hung out with the same group of people and used drugs. Miles told the jury Leduc was known among shelter residents to have strong opinions about sex workers, calling them "dirty [expletive] who ruined families."

It was no secret that Kosmack and Lawson were "vulnerable" women who struggled with addiction and sometimes worked in the sex trade to support their habits, Miles said. But justice is blind and everyone has a right to it, "no matter how unfortunate and marginalized," she told the jury.

Kosmack and Lawson have friends and families who loved them, and who mourn them to this day, Miles said.

Crown James Cavanagh then called Carole Doiron to the stand. She testified she was walking a neighbour's dog early in the morning on June 4, 2008, when she discovered Kosmack's body near a bike path close to Britannia Park. She testified that she notified a construction worker who was nearby, whom she asked to call 911, and said they were both in shock.

Cavanagh then called Ottawa police officer Joe Defranco to the stand. He testified he was working patrol that day and was the first officer to arrive. He described being taken to the body by Doiron, being careful not to disturb the body or the scene, and about noticing a grassy area nearby that appeared to have been matted down.

'I was one of the last people with her'

After the lunch break, Miles called Ottawa paramedic Stephanie Cameron to the stand. She testified that Kosmack was "severely beaten," mainly about the face, that she never saw anyone touch the body and that it was an "upsetting" scene.

The defence had no questions for Doiron, Defranco or Cameron.

The Crown then called James Parro, a retired man who lived in Ottawa and met Kosmack at the Royal Britannia Pub, to the stand. He said he slept with Kosmack the night she died, that he didn't hit or bite her, and that she left his apartment uninjured and in good spirits at about 10:30 p.m. because she said she had to meet someone.

She was never seen alive again.

"I called police ... because I was on of the last people with her," Parro said, breaking down on the stand. He testified he was prompted to call when he heard at work that Kosmack was identified as the victim. He gave police a statement and a DNA sample that same day.

In cross-examination, defence lawyer Ian Carter asked Parro about the sexual encounter with Kosmack in greater detail, and Parro said again that he didn't kiss or bite or strike her. Asked whether Kosmack made any phone calls at Parro's home, Parro said he couldn't recall. Asked if Kosmack talked about problems she was having with an Italian man, Parro said he believes that conversation occurred during a previous encounter.

The trial resumes Friday.