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Accused in Lapuz murder returns to court in March

Preliminary hearing date to be set

The man accused of killing January Marie Lapuz (above) last fall will return to court March 13, when a preliminary hearing date will be set. Credit: facebook.com

The man accused of murder in connection with the Sept 29 death of a New Westminster transgender woman will return to Provincial Court March 13, at which time a date will be set for a preliminary hearing.

Charles Jameson “Jamie” Mungo Neel, 20, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of January Marie Lapuz, who was fatally stabbed in her New Westminster home on Sept 29.

Neel’s arraignment hearing was due to take place Feb 6, but lawyer David Tarnow requested an adjournment until Feb 27.

On Feb 27, Tarnow told Judge Patricia Janzen that a date of June 10 had been set for a preliminary hearing in provincial court but that the chief judge’s office had informed him there is no time available then.

“I have to start again to get a date,” Tarnow told Janzen. “It’s a lengthy case.” He said one to two weeks would cover the hearing.

A preliminary hearing allows a judge to hear evidence in a case and decide if there is sufficient reason to proceed to trial. If a judge decides the evidence is sufficient, the accused in a murder case would be tried in the Supreme Court of British Columbia.

Tarnow said Feb 6 that further evidence was expected to be disclosed to both Crown and defence lawyers. He told the court again on Feb 27 that more evidence will be brought.

Neel has been in custody since his initial bail hearing on Dec 6. He appeared Feb 27 via a video conferencing feed at New Westminster Provincial Court.

Neel sat quietly in a jail booth as the lawyers spoke with the judge and spoke only briefly to acknowledge the next court date. His latest court appearance comes almost two months after the Justice for January rally, which took place Jan 5 in front of New Westminster City Hall and the courthouse.

More than 80 transgender people and their allies participated in the rally, with many attendees stressing that Lapuz’s murder highlights the need for a larger public discussion with respect to the human rights of trans people in BC and Canada.

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