September 12, 2014 / 7:49 PM / 5 years ago

Canada's youngest serial killer convicted in four murders

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - A British Columbia man has been found guilty of four counts of first-degree murder and faces life in prison, after a year-long killing spree that started when he was just 19.

Cody Legebokoff, now 24, will be sentenced next week. First-degree murder in Canada carries an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.

A jury in Prince George, a city 780 km (480 miles) northeast of Vancouver, delivered the guilty verdict late on Thursday, at the end of a two-month trial. Prosecutors used DNA evidence to link Legebokoff to the killings of three women and one teenage girl.

Legebokoff, who testified in his own defense, admitted he was involved in the deaths but claimed another person had actually committed the murders, according to media reports from the trial.

He was found guilty of killing Jill Stuchenko, 35, Cynthia Maas, 35, Natasha Montgomery, 23, and 15-year-old Loren Leslie.

He was back in court on Friday as the families of his victims read impact statements ahead of his sentencing in the case, which was heard in the Supreme Court of British Columbia.

Legebokoff is the latest in a string of notorious serial killers from the western Canadian province, including Robert Pickton, a pig farmer who was found guilty in 2007 of butchering six women, and Clifford Olson, who confessed to killing 11 young people in the 1980s.

Like Olson and Pickton, Legebokoff targeted the vulnerable. All three women he killed were drug users who had turned to the sex trade, and the teenager, Leslie, was legally blind and struggled with mental illness.

Legebokoff’s killing spree ended in November 2010, when a police officer pulled him over for speeding on a remote logging road and noticed his clothing was stained with blood. Legebokoff claimed he had been poaching deer, but was charged with first-degree murder after Leslie’s body was found.

He was 20 at the time of his arrest and had already killed the three other women, the first in late 2009 when he was 19.

Legebokoff is believed to be Canada’s youngest convicted serial killer, though there have been other murderers who killed when they were in their teens and early 20s.

Reporting by Julie Gordon; Editing by David Gregorio and Andrew Hay

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