In a surprise twist at Neil Snelson’s murder trial, a last-minute witness was called to the stand to cast doubt over key testimony about the events of Oct. 16, 1993.
Acting as a rebuttal witness to the defence, which wrapped up its case Thursday morning, Teresa Tatarin spoke about her connection to Snelson and, more specifically, his possession of her accessories.
“Is there any way you left a belt with Neil Snelson a week or two before the party,” Crown counsel Dione Pizzey, asked Tatarin.
“No,” she replied.
“Have you ever had a conversation with Mr. Snelson about a belt,” Pizzey asked.
“No,” she said.
He never returned a belt to her, Tatarin testified, as she wasn’t keen on them anyway.
“I don’t wear belts,” she said. “I don’t like them.”
More importantly, she couldn’t have left one with Snelson in the weeks before the party, as she was living and working in the Lower Mainland in 1993.
Although the return of a belt may seem like a benign element of a complicated case, news of its presence sparked Corp. Bill Parmar and now retired staff sergeant Dean Filipchuk’s attention when they first spoke to Snelson in 2009.
Filipchuk, at that time, had asked Snelson if there was any reason his DNA would be at the crime scene, and he said, “No, no, I don’t think so”
With more prodding, he spoke about two hook-ups—one that stopped at kissing, the other sex— and how he’d returned a belt to a friend in the early hours of Oct. 16, 1993.
It’s the same story he repeated when he took the stand in his own defence Wednesday.
A belt, it turned out, was found near Cusworth’s body Oct. 17, 1993.
Crown counsel Iain Currie contended during his cross-examination of Snelson on Wednesday, that it was mentioned as a way to cover off loose ends and explain away potential evidence against him.
“You took the belt and threw it out your passenger side window after you killed Jennifer Cusworth,” suggested Currie on Wednesday, indicating that there was no way for Snelson to know that his DNA wasn’t on the belt.
“You always knew the DNA was inside Jennifer Cusworth. You lied, you said you had sex at the party. You lied throughout your statement to Filipchuk and Parmar…when they asked you if you saw her that weekend. You lied when you said you didn’t recognize her or have sex with her.”
Snelson denied the assertion, explaining he didn’t know when he was first approached by Mounties if it was indeed Cusworth he’d had sex with.
He’s testified he suspected as much, but he didn’t know for sure.
Defence lawyer Grant Gray didn’t allow the debunking of the belt-story to pass. Through pointed questions to the witness, he asked her if her memory may have been weakened by time and alcohol at the party.
She admitted she couldn’t remember speaking with Snelson that night.
Defence and Crown will now plan their closing submissions in a courtcase that has captured the attention of the city, unlike many before it.
For the last week of proceedings, there were few empty seat in the courtroom as supporters of the Cusworth family, the Snelson family and just curious onlookers piled in.
Even a reporter from NBC Dateline has been sitting in, gathering information for a cold case special that will air sometime in the new year.
All that attention, however, is expected to come to an end in the week to come.
Closing arguments and directions to the jurors will be delivered Monday, and the 12 jurors will go into deliberations.