Halifax police charged a man and woman with first-degree murder Thursday in the death of Loretta Saunders, a university student whose body was found a day earlier on the side of a highway in New Brunswick.
Police say Victoria Henneberry, 28, and Blake Leggette, 25, will face the charges in Halifax provincial court Friday.
Supt. Jim Perrin of Halifax Regional Police said police believe Saunders was killed in the city on the day she was last seen on Feb. 13.
“I can’t get into the evidence because now the case is before the courts. For first-degree murder there has to be some planning to the crime and our investigators are satisfied that existed and that’s why the appropriate charges were laid today,” he said.
“What led the investigators to laying charges today is the totality of evidence from the time the case was reported to the last several days,”
Perrin wouldn’t give any details of how Saunders died.
He said Saunders was once a roommate of Henneberry’s and Leggette’s.
“I can’t imagine what a tragic event this is for Ms. Saunders family and friends and we’re glad we’re able to bring this to some sort of conclusion quickly,” Perrin said.
Henneberry and Leggette were charged earlier with stealing Saunders’s 2000 Toyota Celica, which was found Feb. 18 in Harrow, Ont., south of Windsor.
Saunders’s remains were found at about 4:30 p.m. Wednesday in the median off Route 2 of the Trans-Canada Highway west of Moncton, N.B. The 26-year-old Saint Mary’s University student was last seen on the morning of Feb. 13 in the Cowie Hill Road area of Halifax.
Delilah Terriak, Saunders’s sister, said the family had no comment on the development.
The murder charges came hours after Henneberry was brought to court for a bail hearing on the theft charge. The matter was adjourned to give lawyers more time to review the case.
Defence lawyer Patrick MacEwen said outside court that the lawyers needed time since Henneberry had just arrived in Halifax late Tuesday after being arrested in Ontario days earlier. Halifax police said they spoke with her the next morning.
MacEwen had little to say about his client when asked how she was doing.
“She’s in the same shape as anyone in her predicament is — she’s in custody and I’m sure she doesn’t want to be there,” he said.
Some of Saunders’s friends and one of her brothers sat in the back of the courtroom for the brief hearing, but said nothing to reporters as they left the building.
Members of Saunders’s family travelled to Halifax to make public appeals for help in finding the young Inuit woman, who was originally from Labrador. Dozens of supporters papered the city with posters showing a smiling Saunders and her bright blue car.
Terriak, 21, has said her sister was set to graduate from university in May and was doing her thesis on missing and murdered aboriginal women.
National Chief Shawn Atleo of the Assembly of First Nations said Saunders’s death brings focus on the need for a national commission of inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.
“This is a call to action that this must end now,” he said in a statement. “We cannot add one more name to the list of murdered or missing women. We need to see action by all parties to end violence, to respect and honour women and families, to ensure our communities are safe and secure for all.”
Const. Pierre Bourdages of Halifax police said Saunders’s body was at the medical examiner’s office in Saint John, N.B., for an autopsy in the coming days. He said many pieces of information led police to the location close to the highway.
“The body was not found by a bystander, she wasn’t found by someone driving in the area,” he said. “The information that is before us helped us narrow down the area.”
At a news conference Tuesday, her boyfriend said he last saw Saunders as she was leaving his home to check on an apartment he said she was subletting to Leggette and Henneberry.
Couple facing first-degree murder in death of Loretta Saunders
A man and a woman have been charged with first-degree murder in connection with the homicide of Loretta Saunders, Halifax Regional Police announced this afternoon.
Victoria Henneberry, 28, and Blake Leggette, 25, are scheduled to appear in Halifax provincial court Friday to each face a charge of first-degree murder.
On Feb. 17, Saunders 26, was reported missing to police by her family. She was last seen in Halifax on Feb. 13. On Feb. 18, her car was located in Harrow, Ont., and two suspects were arrested for the theft of her vehicle and remanded into custody.
Wednesday afternoon, Saunders’ disappearance was determined to be a homicide. Her body was located later Wednesday in New Brunswick.
Her remains have been transported to the Coroner Services office in Saint John, New Brunswick where an autopsy will be conducted in the coming days
(Earlier story by The Canadian Press)
HALIFAX — The case against a woman who police allege stole a car belonging to Loretta Saunders has been adjourned.
Victoria Henneberry, who is charged with stealing a 2000 Toyota Celica, is due in provincial court in Halifax for a bail hearing Friday.
Henneberry’s lawyer says she just arrived in Nova Scotia from Ontario and more time is needed to review the case.
Saunders’s body was found Wednesday in the median off Route 2 of the Trans-Canada Highway, west of Moncton, N.B., two weeks after she disappeared.
Police say they consider her death a homicide, have identified suspects and anticipate charges.
Saunders’s car was found on Feb. 19 south of Windsor, Ont., and 28-year-old Henneberry and 25-year-old Blake Leggette were charged with auto theft.
Leggette is also scheduled to appear in court for a bail hearing Friday.
Saunders, a 26-year-old student at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, went missing Feb. 13.
(Earlier story by Barb Sweet/The Telegram)
Loretta Saunders’ family devastated by news of her body being found
Missing Halifax student’s death being treated as a homicide
The family members of Loretta Saunders were devastated at the news Wednesday evening that the missing woman's body had been found in New Brunswick.
“Oh my God. I can’t speak now,” Barb Coffey, Saunders’ aunt, said when contacted by The Telegram Wednesday evening after the news broke.
Halifax police say Saunders’s body was found at about 5 p.m. NT Wednesday in the median off Route 2 of the Trans-Canada Highway, west of Salisbury, N.B.
Salisbury is just west of Moncton, about a three-hour drive from Halifax.
Halifax police had earlier said the disappearance of the university student from Happy Valley-Goose Bay was being treated as a homicide, ending the hope her family had expressed that she would be found safe after vanishing two weeks ago.
Police say they have identified suspects in the homicide and charges are anticipated in the case.
Saunders, a 26-year-old Inuk woman who lived in Halifax and was a student at Saint Mary’s University — where she was researching missing and murdered aboriginal women, and was set to graduate in May — is originally from Labrador. She was last seen Feb. 13 leaving her Cowie Hill Road apartment. Her family reported her missing a few days later.
Family members in Labrador, Halifax and St. John’s were trying to reach each other to speak about the upsetting news Wednesday evening, Coffey said.
“It’s hard, but they are strong,” she said of Saunders’ family, especially her mother, Miriam, in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
Two people have been charged with stealing her 2000 Toyota Celica, which was found in Harrow, near Windsor, Ont., last week.
Members of Saunders’ family have travelled to Halifax to make public appeals for help in finding her. A vigil was held for her Tuesday night in Halifax. “We recognize that Loretta’s family and friends, along with the community, have rallied together in an effort to bring her home safely,” Const. Pierre Bourdages of Halifax Regional Police said in a statement. “This is a tragic incident and a profound loss.”
Police say they have identified suspects and are not looking for anyone else.
Ontario Provincial Police arrested Blake Leggette, 25, and Victoria Henneberry, 28, and they were returned to Halifax to face auto theft charges.
Leggette is scheduled to appear in court for a bail hearing Friday, while Henneberry is scheduled to make an appearance in Halifax provincial court today.
Coffey said earlier Wednesday that Saunders’ family is amazed at the way the aboriginal community across the country, and especially in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, has given them strength. She also noted the kindness and efforts made by volunteers in Nova Scotia, Ontario and elsewhere who helped put up posters and spread the message about Saunders’ disappearance.
with files from Metro News in Halifax