The Crown lawyer prosecuting the alleged second-degree murder of a transgender woman in New Westminster told Xtra outside the courthouse that hate was not a motivating factor in the killing.
January Marie Lapuz, 26, was fatally stabbed in her home in the 500 block of 3rd Ave, New Westminster, on Sept 29, 2012, police said at the time. She was rushed to hospital but died a few hours later.
The preliminary hearing for accused Charles Jameson “Jamie” Mungo Neel began in New Westminster Provincial Court June 10.
Judge Therese Alexander will determine if the case should proceed to trial, after she’s heard the Crown’s basic case against the accused. All testimony, evidence and submissions made during a preliminary hearing are subject to a publication ban.
Prosecutor Rusty Antonuk made an opening statement before Alexander about the case, but its substance cannot be published at this time.
Xtra asked Antonuk about any possible hate motivation in the case outside court. “No indication of hate involved,” he said.
When Judge Daniel Steinberg set the date, on March 13, for this preliminary hearing, Neel’s lawyer, David Tarnow, said that proving his client is the accused will be an issue in the case.
Neel has been in custody since his first bail hearing, Dec 6, following his arrest the day before.
A bespectacled Neel appeared in person June 10. He was clad in red jail fatigues, his hair grown in from its previously shaven state.
He spoke only briefly with his lawyer and a man presumed to be his father before the hearing began.
The discussion was about Neel having proper clothes for the hearing, which is expected to last all week.
The man would not comment on whether he was a family member there to support Neel.
Lapuz was born in the Philippines and was the first transgender person to hold an executive position with Sher Vancouver, a support network for South Asian gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people. Many members of Sher remember her as a shining light in the group.
She was also known to have experienced an occasionally difficult life on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and to work in the sex trade.
More than 80 trans people and their allies attended a Jan 5 rally in front of New Westminster City Hall and the courthouse to demand “Justice for January.” Activists have said Lapuz’s killing underscores the need for a greater conversation about the rights of trans people in Canada.