Charles Jameson “Jamie” Mungo Neel will return to BC Supreme Court in New Westminster Oct 2 for his sentencing hearing, having pleaded guilty to manslaughter June 9 for killing January Marie Lapuz in September 2012.
Neel, 21, was initially charged with second-degree murder in connection with Lapuz’s fatal stabbing in her New Westminster home. In pleading guilty to the less severe charge of manslaughter, Neel accepts responsibility for causing Lapuz’s death without admitting any intent to kill her.
Neel’s lawyer and the prosecutor will each suggest appropriate sentences for his crime when the case reconvenes this fall. Justice Frits Verhoeven will also hear submissions regarding any factors the lawyers think could aggravate or mitigate Neel’s sentence. If Neel is found to have killed Lapuz, a trans woman, out of homophobia, the prosecutor could suggest a hate-crime designation be added to the guilty plea and a stiffer penalty imposed.
Prosecutor Rusty Antonuk told Xtra in June 2013 that the Crown would not be seeking a hate-motivation designation in this case, in the event of a conviction or guilty plea.
The RCMP told Xtra at the time of Neel’s 2012 arrest that hate did not appear to be a motive in the case.
Neel appeared in court June 12 by video for the setting of the hearing date. Verhoeven asked Neel if he understood what was happening. “Yeah, everything’s good, I understand,” replied Neel, who has been in custody since his initial bail hearing on Dec 6, 2012.
The maximum sentence for manslaughter is life in prison.
Lapuz, a well-loved member of Vancouver’s trans and South Asian gay communities, was 26 years old.