FINALLY, JUSTICE FOR JENNIFER
KAMLOOPS - A jury has found Neil George Snelson guilty of manslaughter in the 1993 killing of an Okanagan College student in Kelowna.
The seven-woman, five-man jury began deliberations this afternoon and had a decision by 9:15 p.m. tonight, June 16. Crown prosecutor Iain Currie declined to say what he will seek for a sentence. The sentencing hearing is to be scheduled on Monday. Snelson has already served at least five years of his future sentence but the court may consider that time to be up to ten years served, depending on technical legal arguments.
The jury's decision was met with silence from the courtroom. Snelson showed no reaction.
Terry Cusworth, visibly shaking while awaiting the jury’s entrance into the courtroom, said later he really was unsure how the jury would vote. For years, Terry and wife Jean made public appearances pleading for information about their daughter's killer. Jean was unable to attend the verdict due to health reasons, but told Terry on the phone ‘finally we had a jury who could connect the dots.’
Terry thanked the media and police for sticking with Jennifer’s case for so long, grateful that justice had finally been served.
“If I could turn back time I’d bring Jen back, that would be my choice,” Terry said. “Every day and every night I wish she was around, I wish she was here so that she could give me a hug, and her mama because they were very close…. It’s a good verdict but I’d rather not do it at all, I’d rather have Jen here. I wouldn’t want to wish this on anybody else, wouldn’t wish anyone to go through what we’ve been through.”
Snelson was at an early morning house party on Oct. 19, 1993, with Jennifer Cusworth. Cusworth left the party alone on foot but never made it home. Her body was found by a farmer on Swamp Road the following morning.
Police had DNA evidence from the body but it took 16 years to get DNA samples from all the men at the party, including Snelson. He was arrested in 2009.
This was Snelson's second trial. In 2011, a Kelowna jury found him guilty of manslaughter, but his conviction was overturned by the B.C. Court of Appeal because prejudicial evidence was allowed before the jury.
Snelson has been in custody since his arrest in October, 2009 until June 2014 when he was released on bail pending trial.
For all our coverage of the trial, go here.
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— This story was corrected at 3:15 p.m. June 15. Snelson was granted bail in June 2014, not 2015.
— This story was updated at 10:45 p.m. to include more information and an interview with Terry Cusworth
— The amount of time Snelson has been in custody was corrected at 7:12 a.m. June 17, 2015