UPDATE: 10 years in prison for Vernon woman involved in 'brutal killing' | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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UPDATE: 10 years in prison for Vernon woman involved in 'brutal killing'

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Image Credit: Charlotte Helston
March 19, 2021 - 4:57 PM

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Nearly four years after Willy Bartz was found murdered in his Vernon apartment in July 2017, the court heard how Jacqueline Nicole Leavins had purposely provoked her boyfriend saying that Bartz had more sexual prowess, knowing he would then assault Bartz.

But according to Leavins' account, her boyfriend acted with extreme violence and when she arrived at Bartz's apartment she saw her boyfriend hitting Bartz with a hammer.

Bartz's body was discovered the next day at his Sundance Suites apartment after what Crown prosecutor Laura McPheeters described as an "extremely brutal killing."

While Bartz's body was found the next day, Leavins, along with her boyfriend who is the co-accused in the case, weren't arrested until October 2018 and they were both charged with second-degree murder.

Leavins was sentenced at the Vernon courthouse today, March 19, to 10 years prison time. With time already served, she will spend another six years and four months behind bars. She pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter last August on the first day of her trial.

Leavins' boyfriend was absent from the court, having had a stroke that has left him brain-damaged. He was found unfit to stand trial in January 2020.

Justice Alison Beames placed a publication ban on his name today – allowing the use of his initials R.F. instead – after his lawyer argued he would be denied the right to a fair trial if he recovers enough to stand trial.

Justice Beames reiterated that while the Crown and defence lawyers had made a joint submission for a 10-year sentence and agree on a seven-page statement of agreed facts of what took place in the weeks running up to Bartz's death, this statement was not in any way evidence against R.F.

The court heard how Bartz and Leavins had been having a sexual relationship, although Leavins was in a relationship with R.F.

Weeks before Bartz was killed, friends reported that he had suffered a series of injuries and seen "gashes, holes, and blood all over Bartz's legs." Bartz had told them he'd been assaulted by Leavins' boyfriend because he'd found out he was sleeping with her.

He told one friend that R.F. had "beat the shit out of him."

The situation escalated and on July 18, 2017, Leavins and R.F. had a fight during which she "purposefully provoked" R.F. by making negative comments about this sexual prowess and comparing him to Bartz.

“In doing so she knew that R.F. would go to Bartz's apartment and assault him, she knew that serious bodily injury was likely to result from that assault," McPheeters told the court.

R.F. headed around to Bartz's 43 Avenue apartment and Leavins followed shortly afterwards.

When she arrived at the apartments, she saw her boyfriend hitting Bartz with a hammer.

"He was alive but on the ground at this time," McPheeters said. "Leavins did not touch Bartz, she went into the bedroom... she heard R.F. continue to attack Bartz.... R.F. came to her once Bartz was dead. He thrust a machete into her hand and told her to clean up the mess."

Leavins left without touching anything, and Bartz's body was found the next day.

An autopsy found Bartz had been repeatedly hit with a machete.

A blood pattern analysis found Bartz had been beaten in both the kitchen and the living rooms in the apartment. Blood was found on the floor, the walls, kitchen cupboards and the ceiling showing he was moving around his apartment while being attacked.

McPheeters described it as a "prolonged and savage attack" and an "extremely brutal killing."

Appearing in the courtroom by video, Leavins broke down in tears when the details of the killing were read out.

The court heard how Bartz, who was 50 when he was killed, had been in a car crash when he was young which left him with permanent brain damage. Bartz was described as vulnerable and handicapped.

"He wasn't perfect but he had a good heart," the court heard.

Bartz's brother and sister watched the proceedings from the courtroom gallery. Appearing by phone, another relative read an emotional victim impact statement on behalf of Bartz's mother.

"Words cannot express the pain and anguish that I've experienced since this murder," she said. "My family has been stolen from me and my sense of security in life has been lost."

Bartz's sister, Teresa, then addressed the court reading a lengthy and moving victim impact statement.

Teresa said Bartz's dad had died two months after Leavins was arrested saying he died a broken man.

"His world had crashed down around him," she said. "He gave up."

Teresa said after Bartz's death she had had a nervous breakdown and lost her job and her home.

"I was homeless, aged 52," she said. "No one can understand the pain I'm in."

In a rare move, Teresa directly addressed Leavins in the courtroom.

"My brother cared a lot about Jackie, he talked about Jackie a lot... he wanted Jackie to get clean," she said. "He lost his life for you, so I hope you appreciate that."

Leavins replied, "I know."

The court heard how Leavins, 44, had been a chronic alcoholic since she was 19 years old and was also addicted to crack cocaine.

Defence lawyer Tony Lagemaat said Leavins hadn't originally admitted to her involvement in Bartz's death because she was scared of R.F.

The lawyer told the court Leavins had been a repeat victim of physical and sexual violence since childhood. She had been fostered at a young age and her mother had been murdered in 1985.

As an Indigenous youth, she had been the victim of racist abuse once in care, and her life revolved around a constant cycle of abuse.

She had 11 children, some the result of sexual abuse, Lagemaat said.

However, Leavins accepted responsibility and was making vast improvements since she'd been in prison.

Leavins herself also addressed the court.

"I feel I am responsible for Will's death... I blame myself for all of this," she said. "I failed him so bad when he needed me the most... I owe it to Will be become a better person."

Leavins said she prayed Bartz's family would forgive her.

In a very unusual move, Teresa Bartz then asked if she could address Leavins.

Justice Beames allowed it.

"Jackie, I know Willy would forgive you... and I forgive you too," Teresa said.

— This story was updated at 4:25 p.m. Friday, March 19, 2021, to include more information.

–– Correction: This story was updated at 11:20 a.m. Monday, March 22, 2021, to clarify Bartz's father died two months after Leavins was arrested, not two months after Bartz was murdered.


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