“48 Hours” explores the mysteries and murders along the Highway of Tears (from CBS – Page 3 )
Six months before Maddy Scott disappeared, Doug Leslie, who also lives in this remote region of Canada, received an ominous late night phone call. It was Nov. 27, 2010.
“At midnight I get a call from the cops … asking if Loren was there and I said, ‘What’s going on?’ And he said, ‘Well, if Loren’s home, somebody’s using her ID. So I thought that was kind of strange,” said Leslie.
“What does that mean, someone was using her ID?” Peter Van Sant asked.
“Well, they’d found her ID in a vehicle,” he said.
Leslie’s 15-year-old daughter, Loren, was not at home – and he couldn’t reach her.
“I was worried,” he told Van Sant. “I didn’t know what was going on. Whether she was in trouble or whether she, you know — I didn’t have any idea.”
What he did know was that he wanted to find his daughter. So when police promised -but failed – to call him back, he headed out along a dark road that feeds into the notorious Highway of Tears.
“So at 2 o’clock in the morning, I figured I’m gonna drive until I find cops,” he explained.
Doug Leslie had no idea that, hours earlier, an alert cop had made a traffic stop on that road.
“An RCMP constable … was driving down the road simply on regular police business. And out of one of these logging roads, these skid roads, a black pickup truck comes out … there’s a kid inside, a 20-year-old kid,” investigative reporter Bob Friel explained. “He questions him, IDs him, doesn’t quite like how the kid’s acting.”
The “kid” was suspected of poaching. He was held at the scene while a game warden was summoned and followed fresh tire tracks back through the snow.
“… takes his flashlight … expecting to find a moose or an elk. Instead he finds the body of a 15-year-old girl who had just been killed and dumped there,” said Friel.
It was at that moment that Doug Leslie came upon the scene.
“The game warden was standing there. And he was white as a ghost,” Leslie told Van Sant. “And I told him who I was and I didn’t wanna hear any bull—- and I wanted to know what was going on. And they said all they could tell me was they were investigating a homicide. So I knew right away.”
“You knew that homicide investigation was Loren?” Van Sant asked.
“Yup,” he replied in tears.
Police told Leslie they were having trouble identifying the victim’s face. So he told them to check for a unique tattoo on his daughter’s wrist.
Holding up his arm, Leslie showed Van Sant the matching tattoo on his wrist. “It says Grip Fast … it’s our family motto,” he said. “It just means hang tight.”
Police found the tattoo and Doug Leslie’s worst fears were proven true – the victim was his daughter, Loren.
“She was molested, beat over the head with a pipe wrench and her throat was cut,” he said. “Just awful.”
Asked who could do such a thing, Leslie broke down before telling Van Sant, “Not a human, for sure.”
Twenty-year-old Cody Legebokoff, whose pickup truck was first pulled over on that routine stop, was now a suspect in the murder of Loren Leslie.
“She was very mature for her age. Very caring,” Leslie said of his daughter. “She was a joyful kid … she was a great swimmer … great athlete … she excelled in karate.”
All the more remarkable considering Loren had a genetic eye condition that left her nearly blind since birth. Close friends, like Charleine Laing, barely noticed.
“She never let on to it. You would never know meeting her. She did everything everybody else could do and she did it better,” said Laing.
With the help of thick eyeglasses, Loren was spending hours each night online. And Laing believes that’s how Loren met Cody Legebokoff.
“Cody Legebokoff was very active in social media. He used Facebook, he used online dating sites. His handle, his name online that he used a lot, was ‘1CountryBoy’,” said Friel.
“And so when she met someone online she’d begin a conversation with them?” Van Sant asked Laing.
“She’d establish a relationship. She’s very trusting,” she replied.
“They could confide in her.”
Perhaps too trusting. Loren’s mother, Donna, would worry about her daughter’s trips along the Highway of Tears from her hometown of Vanderhoof to the crime-ridden city of Prince George.
“She would enlist anybody to take her to Prince George because she had a network of friends there and it really concerned me because I didn’t know who these people were and I tried to convince her how dangerous it was,” she explained.
But Cody Legebokoff, a local high school graduate, seemed like the all-Canadian boy next door. He worked at a Ford dealership in Prince George and lived in a house with three roommates–all women. Garett Anatole was on his soccer team.
“When my friend told me it was Cody, our friend and stuff, I couldn’t believe it either. I was like, ‘Oh my God, that was Cody, cause he’s from your own town, right?” Anatole said. “… he was popular. He was, you know, graduated, got along with everybody, fun, joke around, party and stuff like that.”
But as investigators dug into Legebokoff’s past, they were able to tie him to three other murders near the Highway of Tears. A year after Loren’s death, the RCMP declared they had captured a home-grown serial killer:
“We can announce today that three counts of first-degree murder have been laid against 21-year-old Cody Allen Legebokoff,” said RCMP Inspector Brendan Fitzpatrick.
The three other murder victims had disappeared in 2009 and 2010.
“This is someone who, if the charges are proven, was a 19-year-old serial killer. That’s extremely young for a serial killer to start his career,” noted Friel.
Police would not talk to “48 Hours” about how they connected Legebokoff to these victims, but they believe there may be more.
“We believe there are others out there that may have been in contact with Legebokoff or these victims and possess information that can assist our ongoing investigation,” Fitzpatrick continued.
Loren’s friend, Charleine Laing, says she had once met Legebokoff and did not like what she saw.
“I did not like his eyes. They just looked angry,” she told Van Sant.
“They looked — they don’t look soft and innocent, they looked angry.”
“And you felt this way before he was in the news?”
“Long before,” she replied.
With Cody Legebokoff under arrest in the murders of Loren Leslie and three others, townspeople along the “Highway of Tears” felt some relief. But it was clear Legebokoff was far too young to have committed murders that stretched back to 1969. Other killers still were roaming that highway and it was Sgt. Wayne Clary’s job to catch them.
“They’re out there cruising … picking up these girls that are very, very vulnerable,” he said.