When Const. Aaron Kehler spotted blood on a young man he pulled over on a highway in northern British Columbia four years ago, his suspicions quickly turned to the possibility the driver had been poaching, Kehler told Cody Legebokoff's murder trial Tuesday.
Indeed, that's the story Legebokoff — who is now charged with four counts of first-degree murder — told to explain blood on his clothing and in his truck, as well as a blood-soaked pipe wrench and knife police found, Kehler testified. Legebokoff said he and a friend hunted down a deer and bludgeoned it to death with the pipe, said Kehler.
But the story wasn't making sense, Kehler told the jury, and he didn't believe Legebokoff. He and another officer also found a backpack adorned with a plush monkey and a wallet containing the hospital ID of a teenage girl inside Legebokoff's truck, the officer told the trial.
The backpack and ID belonged to 15-year-old Loren Leslie, one of the alleged victims in the case, the trial heard.
"I told him I was looking for the truth of what was going on," Kehler recalled.
"From the things I've learned, people who enjoy killing animals, taking turns clubbing a deer — I said that sometimes they could turn out to be serial killers," he told the jury.
Legebokoff, 24, is accused of killing three adult women and a 15-year-old girl between 2009 and his arrest on Nov. 27, 2010.
Kehler told the trial he pulled over Legebokoff after spotting the truck speed away from a remote, snow-covered dirt road between Fort St. James and Vanderhoof, west of Prince George.
Eventually, Kehler said he called in a conservation officer to look into whether Legebokoff had been poaching, and Kehler and other officers at the scene decided to send the conservation officer up the logging road. Kehler said his computer had displayed what turned out to be an outdated missing person's report for Leslie.
"Before he left, we were speaking of finding this girl's backpack and her being a missing person," said Kehler. "So I was preparing him — it was possible he would find a person up there."
Kehler said he radioed the conservation officer 15 or 20 minutes later to check in.
"I asked (the conservation officer) if it was what we expected or if everything is OK," recalled Kehler.
"He replied back to me: 'it's worst-case scenario.'"
The Crown previously told the trial the conservation officer found Leslie's dead body, which had no signs of life but was still warm to the touch.
Kehler said Legebokoff had already been arrested and read his rights for a possible poaching investigation, so another officer then repeated the process for a far more serious charge: murder.
"I don't recall hearing what transpired — I was trying to come to grips with what had happened," recalled Kehler, choking up in the witness box.
"Immediately after the charter warning, Mr. Legebokoff turned to me and said, 'I found her like that.'"
The Crown has previously said Legebokoff first denied even knowing the teenager but eventually told police they had met online. Legebokoff said the pair had sex that night but that she "started freaking out," hitting herself with a pipe wrench and stabbing herself in the neck, the Crown said.
Earlier Tuesday, Leslie's parents testified that their daughter had struggles with her mental health. Her mother, Donna Leslie, said her daughter was diagnosed with post-traumatic depression and bipolar disorder, but she denied the teen was suicidal.
The other alleged victims in the case are 35-year-old Jill Stuchenko, 35-year-old Cynthia Maas and 23-year-old Natasha Montgomery.
Stuchenko's body was found in a gravel pit in October 2009 and Maas's body was found in a remote park in October 2010. Montgomery's body has never been found.
Legebokoff has pleaded not guilty.