Henneberry granted extension to apply for appeal
Says murder conviction should be overturned, panicked when entering plea
Nova Scotia’s highest court agreed Wednesday to allow Victoria Henneberry to file a late application to appeal her murder conviction in the slaying of Loretta Saunders, a young Inuit woman from Labrador whose body was found on the side of a New Brunswick highway in February 2014.
In April, Henneberry pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, and her boyfriend, Blake Leggette, pleaded guilty to firstdegree murder.
Saunders was a 26-year-old student at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, where she focused her studies on missing and murdered aboriginal women.
In documents filed with the court, Henneberry says her conviction should be overturned and a new trial ordered on the grounds that she panicked when entering her plea.
“I wasn’t in the right mindset when I made my plea,” Henneberry says in a notice of appeal filed June 25. “I was distraught, under a great deal of stress and panicked. I’m not guilty of the charge of seconddegree murder.”
Henneberr y had missed the 30-day deadline to file her application with the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal, but the Crown agreed Wednesday during a conference call to allow an extension to Aug. 21.
In an affidavit dated July 3, Henneberry says she failed to meet the 30-day deadline because her lawyer gave her the wrong information, or she may have misunderstood what she was told.
Henneberry was sentenced to life in prison with no eligibility for parole for 10 years while Leggette was sentenced to a mandatory life sentence with no parole eligibility for 25 years.
“After the sentencing, I was quite overwhelmed by the ordeal but still planned to appeal,” she says in an affidavit dated July 8. “My hopes are to have an appeal granted in order to have an overturned conviction or a fair and impartial trial.”
Even though the Crown has agreed to the extension, “that does not mean that we’re agreeing that the appeal has any merit,” said Chris Hansen, spokeswoman for Nova Scotia’s Public Prosecution Service.
She said another teleconference has been scheduled for Sept. 2 for lawyers to sort out issues before any arguments are delivered.
Henneberry remains incarcer- ated at the Nova Institution for Women in Truro, N.S.
Leggette and Henneberry entered their guilty pleas as their murder trial was starting on April 22.
Two statements of fact submitted to Nova Scotia Supreme Court say the couple was having “financial difficulties” soon after they moved into a sublet room in Saunders’ apartment, which they had found through a Kijiji ad in January 2014.
The documents say the two wanted to get out of Halifax, but give no indication why.
“Mr. Leggette planned to kill Ms. Saunders, take her car and leave the province,” both statements say.
On Feb. 13, 2014, Saunders went to collect rent from the couple but they didn’t have the money, and Henneberry lied when she said she had lost her bank card and needed to contact her bank, according to one of the statements.
Leggette then grabbed Saunders by the throat and choked her, but the young woman fought back, managing to tear through the three plastic bags he pulled over her head.
At one point, Leggette and Saunders fell down. He twice hit her head on the floor and she stopped moving.
“Ms. Henneberry remained during the struggle,” the documents say.
Saunders body was found in a hockey bag on the side of the Trans-Canada Highway near Salisbury, N.B., about two weeks after she was last seen on Feb. 13, 2014.
Leggette and Henneberry were arrested five days later in Harrow, Ont., while driving Saunders’ car. They also had the young woman’s phone, bank card and identification.