Vernon woman charged with murder pleads guilty to lesser charge | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Vernon woman charged with murder pleads guilty to lesser charge

August 17, 2020 - 12:19 PM

A Vernon woman charged with murdering a 50-year-old Vernon man more than three years ago has pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter.

Jacqueline Nicole Leavins, born 1978, was due to begin her murder trial this morning, Aug. 17, at the Vernon courthouse, when she changed her plea.

Leavins, along with co-accused Richard William Fairgrieve, born 1973, were both charged with second-degree murder almost 18 months after Will Bartz was found dead, July 19, 2017, at his home at the Sundance Suites in Vernon.

Leavins and Fairgrieve have both been in custody since their arrest. In January 2020, Fairgrieve was found to be unfit to stand trial, following a psychiatric assessment. Fairgrieve's lawyer Glenn Verdurmen told the court in July that Fairgrieve had suffered a stroke and had an "organic brain injury." He is also facing three charges of trafficking a controlled substance.

Bartz, who had been left with permanent brain damage following a car crash in his 20s, was well-known in downtown Vernon and was a regular volunteer at the Upper Room Mission. His sister, Teresa Bartz, told in October 2018, she had no idea why anyone would want to hurt her brother.

Leavins will be sentenced at a later date.

This story was corrected 12:30 p.m. Monday Augst 17, 2020. An earlier version of this story said the Upper Street Mission, it is the Upper Room Mission.

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