Indigenous

Akwesasne man facing extradition to Canada on murder charge was framed, says girlfriend

The girlfriend of an Akwesasne man awaiting extradition from the U.S. to face a murder charge in Canada says that he is being framed for the killing of his cousin, who was found shot in the head in August.

Court filing details case against Victor Lazore, charged with killing cousin

Victor Lazore, is facing extradition to Canada to face a first degree murder charge in the death of his cousin Jeffrey Lazore-Arquette. (St. Regis Mohawk Police handout)

The girlfriend of an Akwesasne man awaiting extradition from the U.S. to face a murder charge in Canada says that he is being framed for the killing of his cousin.

Victor Lazore, 33, is currently in a Plattsburgh, N.Y., jail awaiting an extradition hearing set for December. 

The Mohawk community of Akwesasne sits about 100 kilometres west of Montreal and straddles the Canada-U.S. border. Roads within the community crisscross the international border, creating a jurisdictional tangle whenever police are faced with major crime investigations. 

Lazore is facing a first degree murder charge in the killing of his cousin Jeffrey Lazore-Arquette, 58. Canada is seeking Lazore's extradition so he can face trial in Quebec, according to court records filed with the U.S. Federal Court in the northern district of New York. 

Lazore-Arquette was found barely breathing and with a gunshot wound to his head, lying on his couch inside his St. Regis Village home on the Canadian side of Akwesasne in the morning of Aug. 11, according to the U.S. court filing. 

He was airlifted to Ottawa General Hospital where he died later that afternoon, according to the filing.

Misha Caldwell, 47, who has been Lazore's partner since January, said she believes Lazore was being framed for the killing because of his vulnerability and mental health issues.

"I feel like Victor is being scapegoated for it... He has a bad reputation up here, but to kill somebody? There is no way, there is no way," said Caldwell.

She met Lazore when they were both in Mesa, Ariz., and moved back with him to Akwesasne a few months ago.  

"He has basically said he knows that he is not guilty of it. He knows he's going to be the scapegoat and he's being railroaded for it."

Lazore's Albany, N.Y.,-based lawyer Dennis Schlenker said in an a short emailed statement to CBC News that Lazore was "not-guilty" and that he planned to fight the extradition.

Allegations of an associate

The Akwesasne Mohawk Police patrol the Canadian side of the community while the St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Police patrol the U.S. side.   

Akwesasne police had received a call from Lazore-Arquette the day before his death alleging that his daughter and her boyfriend Brett Curleyhead, 30, had stolen his generator, according to the court filing. 

Akwesasne police investigators interviewed Curleyhead, who had been arrested on Aug. 11 on a separate set of charges including assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest and was in custody. 

Jeffrey Lazore-Arquette was found shot in his home in St. Regis Village, Akwesasne, on Aug. 11. (Dignity Memorial)

Curleyhead was interviewed three times during the investigation because some of his statements were contradicted by another associate, James Johnson, who was also with him around the time of the killing, according to the filing. 

In two of the interviews, Curleyhead fingered Lazore in Lazore-Arquette's death. In the third interview, Curleyhead gave Akwesasne police investigators a detailed account of what he said he knew about the killing, according to the filing. 

Curleyhead said that Lazore told him on Aug. 10 he was going to kill Lazore-Arquette and take his house. He said Lazore showed him a .22 rifle and said that he would send Curleyhead a coded text message to indicate the job was done "so that Curleyhead could enter [Lazore-Arquette's] residence and take [his] money," said the court filing. 

Curleyhead said he received a text message from Lazore at 2:30 a.m. on Aug. 11.

"I already went to the restaurant and ate without you," the message allegedly said. 

At 3:09 a.m. Curleyhead then sent a Facebook Messenger message to Johnson saying, "let's get some loot," according to evidence provided to police by Curleyhead's girlfriend, the filing stated.

It's unclear from the filing whether Akwesasne police investigators obtained copies of the quoted messages.

On their way to Lazore-Arquette's house, Curleyhead said he and Johnson stopped in at Lazore's place. He said Lazore showed the .22 rifle again and described how he walked into Lazore-Arquette's house and shot him in the head while he slept on the couch, according to the filing. 

Curleyhead said he and Johnson then went to Lazore-Arquette's house and entered the residence but thought he was asleep, the filing said. 

"Curleyhead sent Lazore a text message stating, 'he is still here,'" reads the filing.

"Lazore responded, 'You better take him fishing' which Curleyhead took to mean he should dispose of [Lazore-Arquette's] body in the river."

The filing alleged Lazore also confessed to another associate.

Girlfriend says he was with her

It's unclear from the filing whether Akwesasne police ever found the murder weapon.

Caldwell said that St. Regis Mohawk Tribal Police raided the trailer she and Lazore lived in on the U.S. side of the community on Aug. 16, making holes in the wall and ripping out the furnace. 

She said all they found were two marijuana plants and a shoebox with loose marijuana. Caldwell said they never had any weapons inside their home. 

Lazore was charged with possession of marijuana and held in custody in Malone, N.Y. Akwesasne police went to a Quebec court and obtained a Canada-wide warrant for his arrest on Aug. 28.

U.S. Assistant Attorney General Katherine Kopita filed for Lazore's arrest on Sept. 26, pending his extradition. Lazore was then transferred to Plattsburgh. 

Caldwell said Lazore was with her on the nights of Aug. 10 and 11. She said he didn't leave the house until the late afternoon of Aug. 11 after he received a message informing him of his cousin's death. Caldwell said Lazore then went on a drinking and drug binge, disappearing for three days.

Caldwell said she remains in regular in communication with Lazore and is concerned for his mental health in custody, saying he is "super depressed."

Lazore's extradition hearing is set for Dec. 19 in Plattsburgh.