James Mangan | Team Member
The Cody Legebokoff murder trial highlighted a major social blight facing Prince George: addiction, and the high risk life-style that follows. Three of Cody Legebokoff’s victims, Natasha Montgomery, Cynthia Maas, and Jill Stuchenko, were described to the jury as sex-trade workers who suffered from their addictions to crack-cocaine and other illegal drugs. However, the jury also witnessed family testimonies describing the active struggles these women experienced in their attempts to liberate themselves from the lifestyle that follows this level of addiction. If no other lesson is taken from this trial, let it be that the resources available to those who seek to liberate themselves from addiction and the high-risk lifestyle can be improved.
Crown Prosecutor Joseph Temple stated that all four of Cody Legebokoff’s victims were “willing to meet with…unknown males and accompany those males to the male’s residence or motor vehicle to consume drugs or alcohol.” As a result of such descriptions, BC Supreme Court Justice W. G. Parrett stated in section 155 of the official court document that this trial highlights “a sociological issue, one that arises from, among other things, a high risk lifestyle.” This statement suggests that Supreme Court Justice Parrett was convinced the victims’ high-risk lifestyle, brought about by their addictions to illegal substances, was a contributing factor, though not a direct cause, to their murders. Supreme Court Justice Parrett next states that “This is an issue that must be dealt with.”
To delve deeper into the social-impact of these murders, the families of Cody Legebokoff’s victims presented impact-statements. These statements offered the public a glimpse into a very different Prince George. They suggested that each of the three victims who actively engaged in the sex-trade attempted to find relief, even liberation, from their addictions to illegal drugs and the high-risk scene.
Only months before her murder, Natasha Mongomery had been released from prison, and her father claimed at the trial that she had been actively attempting to put her life back together. One would like to think that incarceration would ideally be the first step towards providing help for those suffering from addiction. Cynthia Maas’s cousin testified that despite being forced onto the streets as a result of her drug addiction, Maas regularly attended Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. The common theme among all the impact-statements was that the victims had been reaching out to their families for help.
Unfortunately, the resources provided to these women, be they those found in incarceration facilities, private charities, or family-development groups, proved to be ineffective at helping these women battle their addiction. As a result, they remained in the spiral that is the high-risk lifestyle, which is where they were preyed upon by Cody Legebokoff.
Cody Legebokoff’s victims are extreme examples of the dangers of the high-risk lifestyle. During the trial, Temple stated that most murders conducted in the high-risk scene are done to send messages as a result of debts, rather than to satisfy serial killers. Nonetheless, the murder of these women highlights a need to prioritize the well-being of our most vulnerable citizens who actively seek out aid and relief from their addictions and the high-risk lifestyle.
To improve the resources available to these citizens, Prince George has a number of options. The new municipal government contains councillors who have stated their willingness to improve communications with the provincial government. Addiction is a national issue that can best be addressed through cooperation among the municipal, provincial, and federal governments. Locally, Prince George has unique options. Support for local recovery centers, such as the proposed facility in the Haldi Road community, can help separate those seeking addiction-relief from their high-risk lifestyles, while accommodating family engagement in the recovery process.
Prince George may have to accept that helping those who want relief from addiction and the high-risk lifestyle requires community investment. In the aftermath of Cody Legebokoff’s trial, Supreme Court Justice Parrett stated that the damaging nature of the high-risk lifestyle is a social issue that must be dealt with. By pgrorioritizing the investment of recovery centers and addiction services, Prince George will be bolstering the resources necessary for those who seek liberation from addiction to successfully leave the high-risk scene.