Donna Leslie scoffs at the term “closure.” She says there’s no end to the tragedy she has endured since her 15-year-old daughter, Loren, was found slain along a desolate logging road last November.
But as Ms. Leslie sits in her living room, clutching a plush Eeyore backpack that holds a velvet bag containing Loren’s ashes, she talks at length about where she does find comfort.
“Her death was a catalyst in stopping a serial killer,” she says, at times fighting back tears.
For months, the mother of three struggled to understand why anyone would want to hurt her middle child. RCMP announced this week that the young man charged with killing Loren is accused of three more slayings.
It’s strange, Ms. Leslie admits, but hearing that her daughter was the victim of an alleged serial killer – that she did nothing to provoke the attack – made the situation a little easier to bear.
The same, she said, is true of knowing that Cody Legebokoff, the 21-year-old charged with four counts of first-degree murder, was taken into custody immediately after Loren’s death. Her daughter’s killing, Ms. Leslie says, may have saved the lives of others.
“It gives a meaning to why she had to die, rather than just because [someone]felt like killing her,” says Ms. Leslie, a 50-year-old social worker.
At the family’s townhouse in the central British Columbia community of Vanderhoof, Loren’s photos are splashed all over the walls. In the living room, the pine coffin made by a family friend in which the visually impaired teen was to be buried has been turned into a makeshift piece of furniture. (By the time forensic testing was done and Loren’s remains were returned, the family opted for cremation.) The casket has been filled with Loren’s belongings, and her friends have scrawled messages on its side. A couple of mattresses balance on top and Ms. Leslie – who’s recovering from a broken leg – uses it as a bed.
“It makes me feel closer to her,” she says. “I just look forward to seeing her again, in heaven.”
Ms. Leslie, who had not spoken publicly about her daughter’s death until this week, says her daughter never mentioned her accused killer. She believes the two met through mutual friends and then chatted on Facebook.
Up the road in Mr. Legebokoff’s hometown of Fort St. James, residents have just as many questions about what happened, how someone who grew up in their midst could be accused of being a serial killer.
School officials say Mr. Legebokoff was an unremarkable student. He played hockey and competed in snowboarding and skiing events. His family is well known because they used to own a local lumber mill.
A trial date for Mr. Legebokoff has not been set, and his family declined to be interviewed for this story. Mr. Legebokoff’s lawyer also declined comment.
Acting mayor Brenda Gouglas says the small community of 1,350 people is still reeling from the murder charges. On the street, residents agree – and most express their sympathy for what Mr. Legebokoff’s parents must be going through.
A woman who works at a hair salon says her daughter was Mr. Legebokoff’s roommate in Prince George before he was arrested and their apartment raided. The woman once stayed with her daughter and didn’t have any misgivings about Mr. Legebokoff. She declined to comment further.
Doug Leslie, Loren’s father, has started a foundation in his daughter’s name to raise awareness of the everyday dangers kids face. Loren’s mother says her daughter was very trusting and wouldn’t have considered that anyone wanted to hurt her.
The details of how Loren died haven’t been released, even to her parents. Mr. Leslie doesn’t want to know – it won’t change anything, he says. Loren’s mother disagrees. “I have to know what the last hours were like,” she says.
When asked what she remembers most, how happily her daughter lived, or how tragically she died, Ms. Leslie doesn’t hesitate. She launches into a story from when Loren was 4, and her younger sister, 2 at the time, had broken her collarbone.
“She had to sleep on the couch for a few weeks so we didn’t have to move her around from the bed to the living area. Loren insisted on sleeping on the floor so that if her sister rolled and fell off, she could land on something soft,” she says with a laugh.
“Her whole focus was on caring for other people.”
With a report from Ian Bailey