Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for April 30, 2012

Case required undercover operation, trial told

The primary investigator into a 2008 murder says an undercover operation was necessary to conduct a complete and thorough investigation into the case.

By Ashley Joannou on April 30, 2012 at 3:10 pm

The primary investigator into a 2008 murder says an undercover operation was necessary to conduct a complete and thorough investigation into the case.

RCMP Const. Craig Thur testified Friday at the first-degree murder trial of Christina Asp.

Asp and her then-boyfriend, Norman Larue,  are accused of killed 63-year-old Gordon Seybold.

His remains were discovered after his Ibex Valley cabin burned to the ground on March 26, 2008.

Larue is scheduled to stand trial later this year.

Thur took the jury of 12 women and two men through some of the key findings that led to the decision to use an undercover operation.

In the “Mr. Big” operation, Asp was led to believe the undercover officers she was spending time with were actually members of an elite crime family.

The pair was arrested in August 2009 in Strathmore, Alta., nearly 16 months after Seybold’s body was found.

The court had already heard the fire destroyed most of the evidence at the crime scene and left investigators with no definitive cause of death and no clear answer to how the blaze began.

Thur told the jury the first real cause for concern came when officers learned that emergency responders had found a tree laying across the road to Seybold’s property.

Police believed the tree had been knocked over by a large truck or SUV, Thur testified.

While interviewing Seybold’s friends and neighbours, officers were told   the man had not gotten along with Asp’s mother,  Jessie, who had once dated a man living on the same property, Thur told the jury.

Police knew Asp’s mother owned a GMC Jimmy. In fact, it was one of the officers investigating the murder who had originally sold her the vehicle, Thur said.

The car had damage to the bumper and Seybold’s blood was later found on the vehicle’s floor mat.

During an April 12 interview,  Asp’s mother told police that her daughter and boyfriend had been driving the car, Thur said.

That was the first time he became aware of the now-accused, Thur said.

Officers were confident the vehicle was associated with the crime, and anyone connected to the Jimmy need to be investigated, the officer said.

An undercover operation was not considered until January 2009, after Asp and Larue had been in jail for months on parole violations.

That was after tests on a large flashlight found in the couple’s Edmonton hotel room found both Asp’s and Seybold’s DNA.

While the pair was in separate jails in Edmonton, police obtain a warrant to intercept their mail.

The warrant was one of 22 issued during the course of the investigation, the court heard.

Officers read hundreds of pages of personal letters over the course of several months.

Based on what they read, police knew the couple was aware they were being investigated and officers believed standard interview techniques would not work, Thur said.

Through the letters,  investigators concluded that Larue was very concerned about Asp getting out of jail before him and being approached by police without him there to guide her, Thur said.

The undercover officers decided to focus on Asp but also interacted with her mother and Larue, who was released from jail about a week before he was arrested for suspected murder, Thur said.

During his cross-examination, defence lawyer Ken Tessovitch suggested officers had decided long before the Mr. Big operation who was responsible for Seybold’s murder.

Thur testified that the purpose of the undercover investigation was to find out what, if any, involvement the pair had in Seybold’s death and to see if anyone else was involved.

The lawyer also questioned Thur on why the couple was not charged with murder in April, when they were arrested for the parole violations.

The officer said that at the time, there was still a lot of work to do and the case was not complete. It would have been reckless to have done anything before they were ready, Thur said.

Thur’s cross-examination was scheduled to continue this afternoon.

The trial, slated to last until June, is being heard in front of Yukon Supreme Court Justice Leigh Gower.

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