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Guilty plea leads to community healing in Mount Currie



Mount Currie Chief Leonard Andrew hopes the guilty plea offered by the accused in the first murder on the reserve in more than 30 years will help the community heal.

"At least it gives us closure legally," said Andrew this week.

"It is still a shock to the community and we are now in the midst of dealing with the whole situation and getting counselling for people. The family is in quite a lot of turmoil and obviously so is the community.

"It is something that we hope we will never go through again."

Earlier this month Wade Calvin Peters, 29, pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of teenager Ross Leo on May 2, 2002.

His eight-week trial was set to begin next week.

Peters was originally charged with second degree murder in the death, along with Lorne Edward Edmonds, 51. Charges against Edmonds were stayed.

Crown counsel Ralph Keefer said reducing the charge to manslaughter was appropriate given the details of the case.

"The only reliable evidence after a review came from a statement provided by the accused Peters where he explained how in a drunken state he had pulled the deceased off of Edmonds as they were fighting and beat him with a rock," said Keefer.

"So Edmonds’ involvement ended at the point where Peters intervened, which means he was not a party to the manslaughter."

Keefer also said the level of drunkenness would make murder very difficult to prove.

An independent witness had seen the three fighting earlier over a bottle of wine, said Keefer.

The manslaughter occurred sometime between 5:30 a.m. and 7 a.m. in a popular hangout that was known as the jungle.

The area, which is owned by B.C. Rail, has since been cleared up.

Keefer said he travelled to Mount Currie late last week to talk to the family of 14-year old Ross Leo about the Crown’s decision to accept the plea.

"The family was understandably disappointed with our decision," said Keefer.

"But I think they came to understand the legal reality of the situation, not that that provides much comfort of the tragic loss of their son."

Chief Andrew said the community is refocusing on helping the youth learn to respect each other and cope with drugs and alcohol in the community.

He is pleased that both Pemberton and Mount Currie are working together on this.

"There has been a task force put together in regards to dealing with this type of incident," said Andrew.

"The Jungle Task Force is asking how do we deal with the situation and fortunately the two communities of Pemberton and Mount Currie are talking about how we deal with it together.

Peters will be sentenced in Vancouver’s B.C. Supreme Court on May 14.

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