Man convicted of manslaughter death of LVR grad gets new trial
The man convicted of manslaughter in the death of a L.V. Rogers High School graduate will likely get a new trial sometime this year.
Neil Snelson, almost 50, made a brief court appearance Monday in Kelowna.
According to a story on the Castanet website, Snelson seemed in good spirits, smiling and nodding to friends seated behind him in the gallery. He was wearing a red prison uniform.
Cusworth, a L.V. Rogers High School grad, was studying social work at Okanagan University College and went missing from a house party Kelowna on Oct.16, 1993.
Cusworth was never seen alive again. Her body was found in a ditch on Swamp Road, on the outskirts of Kelowna.
The decision by the B.C. Appeal Court hinged on a statement made by Snelson during police questioning which he did not reply to the officers if he would plead guilty to the charge.
At trial, the Crown argued Snelson’s response that he hadn’t decided his plea was an indication of guilt; since an innocent person always says he wasn’t guilty.
The Crown urged the jury to come to the same conclusion.
But Snelson’s lawyer appealed, arguing the accused was merely asserting his right to silence, which cannot be used against him.
The B.C. Appeal Court agreed.
Snelson was one of the 150 people at the house party from which Cusworth disappeared.
According to the police, they had allegedly found DNA on an object at the murder scene matched with Snelson’s.
Fifteen years later improvements in DNA technology enabled investigators to find 43-year-old father of four. He was convicted in 2011 and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
The Cusworth family lived in Crescent Valley for a number of years while Jennifer their only daughter was going to high school in Nelson and Jean worked in the local school system as a principal.
Shortly before her death the family moved to Victoria and Jennifer moved to Kelowna to attend Okanagan University College to study social work at age 19.
Snelson is slated to be back in court February 3 to set a new trial date.