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Preliminary hearing in Lapuz case scheduled for June

Accused remains in custody

January Marie Lapuz Credit: facebook.com

The man accused of murder in the death of January Marie Lapuz, who was fatally stabbed in her New Westminster home on Sept 29, remains in custody as he awaits a preliminary hearing in June.

Charles Jameson “Jamie” Mungo Neel is charged with second-degree murder in the case. He appeared in New Westminster Provincial Court March 13 via videoconference before Judge Daniel Steinberg.

The judge approved a five-day preliminary hearing due to start June 10. During such a hearing, a judge assesses the evidence to determine if a case should proceed to trial. Any testimony heard at the hearing is subject to a publication ban.

Proving his client is the accused will be an issue in the case, Neel’s lawyer, David Tarnow, told Steinberg. Neel has been in custody since his first bail hearing, Dec 6, following his arrest the day before.

Lapuz, 26, was found stabbed in her home in the 500 block of 3rd Ave, New Westminster on Sept 29, police said. She was rushed to hospital but died a few hours later.

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 transgender people. Many members of Sher remember her as a shining light in the group. Lapuz was known to have experienced an occasionally difficult life on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and had worked in the sex trade.

A bespectacled Neel appeared on a video screen in a corner of the court March 13. He was clad in red jail fatigues, his hair growing in from its previously shaven state. He was in a small room at the remand centre and spoke only briefly to his lawyer to acknowledge that he would be in attendance by videoconference for an April appearance.

More than 80 trans people and their allies attended a Jan 5 rally in front of city hall and the courthouse. Activists say Lapuz’s killing underscores the need for a greater conversation about the rights of trans people in Canada.