On the night before Chelsey Acorn was reported missing in June 2005, she left an Abbotsford foster home with plans to meet up with a man named “James.”
A witness testifying during the first day of the trial for Jesse Blue West – charged with the first-degree murder of Acorn – said that she had previously met “James,” who indicated that his real name was “Blue” and showed her his ID to prove it.
“He’s a slime ball,” said Jenna Cole on Tuesday at B.C. Supreme Court in Chilliwack before the judge reminded her to reserve her personal opinions.
Cole’s testimony was part of a voir dire (a trial within a trial) in response to defence counsel Brian Coleman’s challenge of the admissibility of certain evidence.
The trial is being heard by Judge William Grist alone, and he will decide whether oral statements made by Acorn to other people should be permitted as evidence.
Cole, 24, indicated that she had known Chelsey when they both resided in the same Abbotsford foster home from May 27 to June 10, 2005.
During that period, Cole said Chelsey, 14 years old at the time, informed her that she was spending time with a man named “James,” who took her on drives, gave her money, and bought her items such as clothing, cigarettes, and pay-as-you-go cellphone cards.
On one occasion, Acorn told Cole that James’ real name was “Blue.”
On another day, Cole and Acorn were sitting on the front lawn of their foster home when an older man in a red Cavalier pulled up. Cole said Acorn seemed comfortable with the man, got in the car with him, and they drove away.
Cole later spoke with the man in person, when she and Acorn met up with him in the parking lot of Abbotsford Recreation Centre. Cole said she challenged him about his real name, and he showed her his ID to prove that it was “Blue.”
Crown prosecutor Carolyn Kramer asked Cole if the man in question was in the courtroom, and she indicated that West, 60, sitting in the prisoner’s dock, was that person.
In earlier testimony, Acorn’s former social worker Cara Godbehere said she first heard the name “Jesse West” during a March 2005 phone conversation with Acorn, who was a permanent ward of the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
Acorn had called Godbehere to ask for permission to travel to Vancouver with a man whom she said ran a drug and alcohol program.
Godbehere then called the phone number supplied by Acorn, and spoke with a man who identified himself as “Jesse West.” He said he ran a program that involved taking at-risk youths to the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver to show them the hazards of drug use – similar to the “Scared Straight” program used in the prison system.
Godbehere did not grant permission for Acorn to go with West, but the teen was a “chronic AWOLer” who did not like boundaries and often left her foster homes without permission, she said.
Godbehere said Acorn struggled with “high-risk behaviours” – such as hitchhiking, smoking pot, drinking alcohol, skipping school and partying – and often had boyfriends who were older than she.
“She was very impulsive and would get in the car with anybody,” Godbehere said.
She said she last heard from Acorn on June 10, 2005, when the teen called to say she wanted to move in with her 19-year-old boyfriend, whom she identified only as “Dustin.”
Acorn was reported missing on June 11, 2005. Her remains were found in a shallow grave by hikers near the Carolin Mines exit off the Coquihalla Highway outside of Hope on April 8, 2006.
West and his son Dustin Moir, now 27, were charged with her murder the following year. West has been in custody ever since.
Both went on trial in November 2009, but West’s proceedings were severed from Moir’s two months later. Moir was convicted in February 2010 and was sentenced to a life sentence with no parole eligibility for 15 years.
During those proceedings, it was revealed that Acorn had been choked to death and buried naked in a shallow grave. Her skull had been crushed by a large rock.
Stacey Laybolt, Acorn’s cousin, who spoke on behalf of the family, said she wants people to focus on a key element of the case.
“It’s about a 14-year-old girl whose life was taken abruptly without cause … We just want justice.”
West’s trial is expected to take six weeks.