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Accused in Lapuz murder back in court

Neel arraignment delayed until end of February

The man accused of killing January Marie Lapuz (above) last September sat quietly in the prisoner's dock Feb 6. Credit: Facebook.com

The man accused of murder in connection with the death of January Marie Lapuz will return to court on Feb 27 for an arraignment hearing, at which time the court will schedule a date for a preliminary hearing.

The preliminary hearing will take place at BC Supreme Court, which has jurisdiction over murder trials. At that time the judge will decide whether there is enough evidence to proceed with a trial and Neel will be given an opportunity to enter a plea.

Charles Jameson “Jamie” Mungo Neel, 20, was charged with second degree murder after Lapuz, a transgender woman, was fatally stabbed in her New Westminster home on Sept 29.

Neel appeared in person at New Westminster Provincial Court on Feb 6 before Judge Deirdre Pothecary. He sat quietly in the prisoner’s dock as the lawyers spoke with the judge. Of slight build, he wore a red T-shirt, sported shaved dark hair and spoke only briefly with his lawyer, David Tarnow.

Neel’s arraignment hearing was due to take place Feb 6, but his lawyer requested an adjournment until Feb 27 because further disclosure is expected to be released to both Crown and defence lawyers. Neel has been in custody since his initial bail hearing on Dec 6, which followed his arrest the previous day.

Neel’s court appearance comes a month after the Justice for January rally, which took place on Jan 5 in front of New Westminster City Hall and the courthouse. The rally was attended by more than 80 trans people and their allies. Many attendees stressed that Lapuz’s murder highlights the need for a larger public discussion with respect to the human rights of trans people in British Columbia and Canada.

Spokespeople for the RCMP’s integrated homicide investigation team, however, have told Xtra that hate does not appear to be a motive in this case.