To catch a killer

Sardis secondary graduate Cst. Aaron Kehler finds himself at the heart of B.C. serial killer case

From left

From left

On a November evening in 2010, Const. Aaron Kehler was just cresting a hill on rural Highway 27 when something caught his eye.

Headlights from another vehicle were cutting through the tree line in the distance, just off the roadway between Fort St. James and Vanderhoof. At first, he assumed it was a snowmobiler out enjoying the evening. And from any other vantage point along the highway, it’s a detail he wouldn’t even have noticed it.

But it was a pick-up truck, and a few moments later it came full speed onto the highway from a snowy side road. The driver didn’t slow down for the road surface changes, didn’t yield to traffic, and sped down the highway ahead of him.

Even as a rookie officer, Kehler could sense this would be no ordinary traffic stop. But he had no idea he was tracking a serial killer.

“I didn’t think anything of it at first,” he said of the headlights. “Except that it’s an odd place for someone to be.”

Kehler didn’t normally patrol the area; he was there transporting a lady’s purse that got left behind after she hit a moose earlier. He followed the truck for 10 km, until the officer he was meeting for the property transfer was in view. In retrospect, the backup was crucial, considering what was about to unfold.

It took some time for the driver to pull over, and when he did it was right under the only street lamp in the area.

As Kehler spoke to the driver, 19-year-old Cody Legebokoff, things really took a weird turn.

They noticed an open beer and searched the truck, finding drops of blood on Legebokoff’s chin and bare legs. He had killed a grouse, he told them, and there was a struggle.

When they found more blood on the rubber floor mat, a stainless steel tool, and eventually on a pipe wrench, he gave the officers a story that he’d been out poaching a deer, with a friend. But there was no friend, and no evidence of a deer. And, he was wearing shorts.

Snow inside the truck hadn’t melted, and the blood all over the stainless steel tool had not congealed. This crime had just happened, they knew that much. And the body wouldn’t be far. A teddy bear backpack was stuffed in the door pocket of the passenger side, with the identification for a 15-year-old girl, Loren Leslie. They ran her name, and she was missing.

A conservation officer was called, who travelled up the road that Legebokoff had emerged onto the highway from just moments before. He found Leslie’s body under a tree, and Legebokoff was arrested for her murder.

Legebokoff is now in prison on four counts of first-degree murder, following years of investigation and court dates. At 19 at the date of his arrest, he is Canada’s youngest known serial killer. And had he not been seen on that lonely winter road by a police officer who was there by random happenstance, Kehler said, it’s likely he would have killed again.

“It was unexpected and I didn’t know what I was getting into,” Kehler said. “It went from one investigation to the next, and I was trying to sort out what was happening.”

From traffic violation to Liquor Control Act violation, to a poaching charge, and finally to murder in about an hour. The quick thinking and intuition earned Kehler, a Sardis secondary grad, a Commanding Officer’s Commendation this April.

But the case didn’t end there.

“There were these unsolved homicides,” Kehler said. Major crime units stepped in and the senior officer noticed a similarity to the unsolved homicide of Cynthia Maas, whose body was found outside Prince George a month earlier.

The doctor performing the autopsy confirmed the injuries were consistent among the two victims. And there was yet another missing woman, Natasha Lynn Montgomery, who hadn’t been seen or heard from in two months.

They were on the heels of a string of murders, and Kehler’s actions had stopped him cold in his tracks.

“It comes down to the chance of me going down there at that moment, just cresting that hill at that moment,” he said, adding that all the circumstances played into it, right down to avoiding a possibly deadly crash just a few days prior.

“It’s a blessing, for sure,” he said.

Just like in his truck, Legebokoff left a messy trail that connected him to four murdered or missing women. There was DNA of Maas in his apartment, along with the murder weapon. Hundreds of droplets of blood were found, along with footprints of blood with Montgomery’s DNA. Then they found the dried blood of what may have been his first victim, Jill Stuchenko, under his couch. Her body was found a year prior and her murder was still unsolved. They learned the couch had been moved from another residence in Prince George, and searching that home led them to find more of her blood.

Kehler had to spend five days straight on the stand, testifying. It was the first time a defendant in his files had plead not guilty.

Montgomery’s body has not yet been found, and the story is not quite over.

“He is appealing,” Kehler told The Progress this week.

“It’s been a long time coming and I’m glad it’s over, but it might all be starting back up again.”

But for now, Cody Legebokoff remains in custody.

 

Just Posted

These three kittens, seen here on Thursday, June 10, 2021, are just some of many up for adoption at the Chilliwack SPCA. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Find Me My Furever Home – Three kittens at the Chilliwack SPCA

Kittens were in ‘rough shape’ when they came into the Chilliwack SPCA, now ready for adoption

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Chilliwack family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A new sign was installed at St. Thomas Anglican Church on Saturday, June 5, 2021 in Chilliwack. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Community effort to install new sign at Chilliwack’s oldest church

‘We feel it’s a step in the right direction to bring the church up-to-date,’ says St. Thomas parishioner

Dennis Saulnier rescued his daughters, two-year-old Brinley (left) and four-year-old Keegan, after their truck was driven off the road and into Cultus Lake on May 16, 2020. Reporter Jenna Hauck has been recognized by the B.C. and Yukon Community Newspapers Association for her story on the rescue. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)
Chilliwack Progress, Hope Standard staff take home 7 Ma Murray awards

Jenna Hauck, Eric Welsh, Jessica Peters, Emelie Peacock all earn journalism industry recognition

A student prepares to throw a plate full of whipped cream at principal Jim Egdcombe’s face as vice principal Devin Atkins watches as part of a fundraiser at Leary Integrated Arts and Technology elementary on Friday, June 11, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
The pied principals: Chilliwack elementary staff get messy for charity

Cops for Cancer fundraiser saw kids ‘pie the principal’ at Leary elementary in Chilliwack

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Most Read