Thursday, March 15, 2007

Latest accused in sex slaying of teen pleads not guilty


Grim story goes on
The brutal sex slaying of 13-year-old Nina Courtepatte is one of the most shocking and talked-about crimes in Edmonton's recent history - and it just won't go away.

Yesterday - five days after the case against two of the accused wrapped up, pending a verdict by the judge - a new trial began for a 19-year-old woman charged in the killing.

The alleged killer cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act because she was 17 at the time of the April 3, 2005, slaying at an Edmonton-area golf course.

The native woman, who has long dark hair and wears glasses, was dressed in a white sweater and jeans as she stood in the prisoner's box and softly said "not guilty" after a charge of first-degree murder was read out.

Defence lawyer Colleen Connolly entered not guilty pleas on behalf of the accused for additional charges of aggravated sexual assault and kidnapping.

Court has heard Courtepatte was raped twice and beaten to death with a wrench and a sledgehammer on a golf course west of the city after being lured from West Edmonton Mall on the pretense of going to a bush party.

Yesterday's Court of Queen's Bench trial began with Courtepatte's mother, Peacha Atkinson, taking the stand.

Atkinson described her slain daughter as a "fun-loving, caring person" who was "assertive" and always took care of her siblings. She said the teen, who had recently won a modelling contest, wanted to be either a model or an actress.

The grieving mom said Nina, a "very independent" Grade 7 student at Britannia junior high school who also took life skills classes in the Cheemo program, "used to like to run and hide in the dark outside and make me panic."

Atkinson testified she last saw her daughter on the early morning of April 1, 2005, when she kissed her on the way to work, and last spoke to her on the phone the next night when she agreed Nina could sleep over at a friend's home.

The trial is scheduled for six weeks.

A male youth co-accused has already pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and is awaiting sentencing. A second female accused is slated to go on trial in May.

The two-month trial of Joseph (Snowman) Laboucan, 21, and Michael Briscoe, 36, concluded Wednesday and the judge in the case said he will give his decision March 23.

In closing arguments, the defence lawyer for Laboucan said he was the "fall guy" after being set up by teenage "mall rat" girls who were the real ones behind the killing.

She argued jealousy was a prime factor in the slaying and suggested some of the girls there were upset with Courtepatte's good looks and popularity.

She also speculated there might have been issues with old boyfriends or the slaying might have been sparked at the time by a "fit of rage and jealousy."

Briscoe's defence lawyer argued his client had driven the group to the golf course, but was merely a bystander.

The three youth accused all testified at the trial of Laboucan and Briscoe and pointed the finger at Laboucan, saying he raped Courtepatte and attacked her with a wrench.

One of the girls also testified Laboucan came up with the idea and said he wanted to kill someone "for fun."

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