Kelowna man confided in pastor before murder charge pressed

Kelowna murder suspect's pastor encouraged honesty about relationship with victim, months before arrest.

Neil Snelson’s pastor encouraged him to be open about any connection he may have to murder victim Jennifer Cusworth, during a conversation where it was implied the two may have had sex the night she died.

Lee Loveridge, the First Lutheran church’s associate pastor testified at Snelsons’s first degree murder trial Friday, saying the congregation member booked an appointment to speak about issues he was having May. 28, 2009. Top of the list, Loveridge recalled, was that he suspected police had been tracking him.

“He was reasoning through, and the only reason he could be followed was because he was at a party with Jennifer Cusworth in 1993,” Loveridge said.

Loveridge, who was new to the area, was unfamiliar with the investigation that started Oct. 17, 1998 when Cusworth’s body was found facedown in several inches of water, in a ditch on Swamp Road.

Snelson then told him there were hundreds of people in attendance of a Richter Street party, Oct. 16, 1993. Snelson said he’d  been drinking,  and although he was married to his first wife, he’d had sex with another woman.

“”It was embarrassing thinking back on mistakes. Having sex… being unfaithful to wife at the time,” Loveridge said of the conversation.

“What I remember most was he was concerned for the well being of his family.”

Loveridge said he encouraged Snelson to confront fears about how his family would react to the news.

“I encouraged him to share with wife,” he said. “I said, ‘if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about’.”

Snelson’s defence lawyer Wade Jenson asked the pastor if he understood that Snelson had been sexually active with Cusworth.

“I think that was implied… I don’t know if it was ever stated,” said Loveridge.

When investigators arrived at his door days later, Snelson said he had sex with a woman all those years ago, but didn’t know her identity.

Loveridge’s testimony closed day three of the trial, which earlier focussed on the testimony from Dr. Ron Roy, a pathologist that conducted an autopsy of Cusworth’s body October 18, 1993.

Roy testified Cusworth, who had a possibly debilitating blood alcohol level of .17, died from receiving several blows to the back of her head, although there was also evidence of manual strangulation.

He surmised it was likely a metal rod — like a tire iron— or a piece of hardwood that would have caused the deadly blows.

The teen also had evidence of bruising along her lips, that Roy said indicated she was punched or slapped.




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