A man accused of murder in the death of Tiki Laverdiere was in North Battleford Provincial Court Monday for his preliminary hearing.
Jesse Sangster, 23, of Edmonton, is charged with first-degree murder. He is also charged with kidnapping, improperly interfering with a human body, and theft of a vehicle.
The proceedings started at 9:30 a.m. Due to COVID-19 restrictions there are only seven seats available in the gallery, besides the sheriff’s seat. One seat is reserved for an RCMP officer from the Major Crimes Unit, two seats for the family of Laverdiere, two seats for Sangster’s family, one seat for a lawyer representing the other co-accused, and one seat for the media. Everyone in the courtroom must wear masks throughout the proceedings, except for Judge Kevin Hill who sat behind a clear plastic sheet.
Sangster appeared in person. He wore orange prison clothes and sat in the far corner of the enclosed prisoner’s box.
So far Crown Prosecutor Chris Browne called one witness to the stand, whom he questioned all morning.
In the afternoon, Sangster’s defence lawyer Rebecca Crookshanks cross-examined the witness. The evidence presented at the hearing, however, is protected under a publication ban.
Seven people were charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping, improperly interfering with a human body, and theft of a vehicle. They include Jesse Sangster, 23, of Edmonton, Soaring Eagle Whitstone, 33, of Onion Lake Cree Nation, Shayla Orthner, 27, of North Battleford, Danita Thomas, 32, of North Battleford, Nicole Cook, 37, of Edmonton, Nikita Sandra Cook, 32, of Edmonton, and Charles St. Savard, 33, of Edmonton.
Three people were charged with accessory to murder after the fact. They include Brent Checkosis, 18, of North Battleford, Mavis Quinn Takakenew, 55, of North Battleford, and Samuel Takakenew, 36, of Edmonton.
Laverdiere was reported missing to Battlefords RCMP May 12, 2019, after her family last heard from her on May 1, 2019. Her body was found July 11, 2019, during an RCMP ground search in a rural area outside of North Battleford. She was in North Battleford April 2019 for the funeral of Tristen Cook-Buckle, 20, which was held on Thunderchild First Nation.
Sangster is Cook-Buckle’s brother. Nicole Cook is the mother of Tristen Cook-Buckle. Mavis Takakenew is the mother of Nicole Cook. And Samuel Takakenew is the son of Mavis Takakenew.
Two of the 10 charged have been sentenced for their part in Laverdiere’s murder. Brent Checkosis was sent to prison for seven years on charges of accessory after the fact to murder. Mavis Takakenew was given 18 months on the same charge. With credit for time served while waiting for her trial, Takakenew has already been released from prison. There is a ban on publication on the sentencing hearings for Checkosis and Takakenew until the trials of all the co-accused are finished.
Sangster has pleaded not guilty and none of the charges have been proven in court.
The preliminary hearing is expected to last three weeks and continues Sept. 29 in North Battleford Provincial Court.
-By Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter / Battlefords News-Optimist
Facebook photo, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist