Crown drops murder charge in hockey bag case

SYDNEY, N.S. — A Nova Scotia man convicted of murdering a 19-year-old woman solely for thrills has admitted to being an accessory to the murder of another young woman.

Thomas Ted Barrett pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact in the murder of Laura Jessome, 21, in 2012. Her remains were discovered in a hockey bag floating on the Mira River.

Barrett had been charged with Jessome’s second-degree murder, but the Crown dropped that charge Wednesday after his guilty plea on the lesser charge.

Prosecutors say they stood no chance of getting a murder conviction, because witnesses were unco-operative.

“We can’t try this in the court of public opinion, but the Crown believed that we had the evidence to proceed on a murder charge. Unfortunately, the witnesses proved to be unco-operative and we could no longer proceed,” said Chris Hansen, director of communications for the Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service.

One of the unco-operative witnesses was a co-accused in the case, Morgan James MacNeil, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter last November and was sentenced to seven years, she said.

“The Crown is disappointed that we couldn’t proceed. Justice can only be served if we have co-operative witnesses that provide honest testimony,” Hansen said Wednesday.

Barrett, who is in his early 40s, was convicted in March 2016 of second-degree murder in the death of Brett McKinnon, 19. He was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 15 years.

Both McKinnon and Jessome had been strangled, and their bodies disposed in the wild.

According to an agreed statement of facts tabled in Nova Scotia Supreme Court Wednesday, Jessome contacted Barrett on May 2, 2012, and agreed to go to his Glace Bay apartment “to do drugs and party,” with him and others.

“On May 3, 2012, an argument developed which became physical and Laura Jessome was killed by strangulation in or near the apartment,” according to the statement.

Her body was placed in the hockey bag, and Barrett asked a friend to drive him to Marion Bridge, and he threw it into the Mira River, it said.

In the McKinnon case, her remains were found in 2008 near a Glace Bay hiking trail, two years after she went missing. Barrett wasn’t charged until 2013.

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