Weeks before investigators showed up at his door, Neil Snelson confided to his pastor suspicions that police were following him because of a sexual encounter he had had with Jennifer Cusworth.
Lee Loveridge, the First Lutheran church’s associate pastor who was called as a Crown witness for Snelson’s first degree murder trial Friday, recalled that the congregation member booked an appointment May 28, 2009, to speak about issues he was having with his family life.
Top of the list of topics, Loveridge recalled, was that Snelson suspected police were tracking him.
“He was reasoning through, and the only reason he would 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 explained to Loveridge there were hundreds of people at the Richter Street party, Oct. 16, 1993, and he’d been drinking heavily. Although he was married to his first wife at the time, he told his pastor he’d had sex with another woman.
“It was embarrassing thinking back on mistakes. Having sex…being unfaithful to his wife at the time,” Loveridge said of what he gleaned from 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 his wife. I said, ‘If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about,’” Loveridge said.
Snelson’s defence lawyer, Wade Jenson, then asked the pastor if the conversation led him to understand that Snelson had had sex with Cusworth.
“I think that was implied…I don’t know if it was ever stated,” said Loveridge.
When investigators arrived at his door June 18, 2009, Snelson said he had sex with a woman all those years ago, but didn’t know her identity.
He added that he didn’t know who Cusworth was, and hadn’t seen her at either the Richter Street party or at Iggyz, a local bar they’d both been at earlier.
Loveridge’s testimony closed day three of the trial, which earlier focused on the testimony from Dr. Ron Roy, a pathologist who conducted the autopsy on Cusworth’s body on Oct. 18, 1993.
Roy testified Cusworth 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. She did not have defensive wounds on her arms, or material under her nails.
Explaining how that could be, Roy said that Cusworth had a blood alcohol level of .17, which would have meant she was extremely intoxicated and unable to put up a good defence. She would have had slurred speech, staggered, poor control of her movements and poor judgement, said Roy.