As Justice William Grist pronounced Jesse Blue West guilty of the first-degree murder of 14-year-old Chelsey Acorn, her mom let out a clap and a “Yes!” in B.C. Supreme Court in Chilliwack on Monday morning.
Family members supporting Lisa Acorn then cried and hugged one another in relief at the verdict which sees West, 60, receive an automatic life sentence with no parole eligibility for 25 years.
Chelsey’s cousin, Stacey Laybolt, and her younger sister, Breanna, spoke on behalf of the family outside of the courthouse.
“We’re very happy that justice has been served … We’re just glad that this monster’s off the street and he’s not going to do this to anybody else,” Laybolt said.
Breanna said she wanted people to remember her sister as someone who was “vibrant, beautiful and just loved life.”
Chelsey was reported missing from an Abbotsford foster home on June 10, 2005. Her remains were found April 8, 2006 in a shallow grave near the Carolin Mines exit off the Coquihalla Highway outside of Hope.
She had been buried naked, and an autopsy determined that her skull had been crushed with a large rock sometime in the fall of 2005.
West, a former long-haul trucker from Surrey, and his son, Dustin Moir, now 27, of Mission were charged with her murder in 2007. Both went on trial in November 2009, but West’s proceedings were severed from Moir’s two months later.
Moir, who had been in a relationship with Chelsey, was convicted in February 2010 and also received a life sentence.
Both of their trials relied much on evidence gathered during a “Mr. Big” sting in which undercover police officers posed as members of a criminal organization that hired the pair, individually, to work for them.
West and Moir were shown separately in undercover footage confessing to Chelsey’s murder in a meeting with the “crime boss.”
In West’s footage, he told the boss that he killed the teen because she was going to report to police that Moir had sexually assaulted her.
He said the three drove to a wooded area, and he dug a deep hole while Chelsey and Moir went for a walk. When they returned, West said he approached Chelsey from behind and strangled her.
The father and son then buried her in the hole, disposed of her clothes and threw into the nearby river the shovel used to dig the hole, West said.
He testified at his trial that his confession was a lie so that he could gain favour with the boss. He claimed that his son had killed Chelsey during an argument at a campground over her supposed pregnancy, and his only role was to bury her body.
West also alleged that, despite testimony from several witnesses, his relationship with Chelsey was platonic, based only on her involvement with his son.
However, the judge said he found West’s testimony to be “disjointed, improbable and inconsistent.” Grist said all the witnesses were credible and he believed that West had been in a sexual relationship with the teen.
Grist said despite inconsistencies in West’s reports of the murder, he said he had no doubt that he was guilty of killing Chelsey and that it was “planned and deliberate.”
Following West’s conviction, Laybolt said that she hopes something is learned from the death of Chelsey, who had been described as a troubled teen.
“She could be an example so this doesn’t happen again. If we could do something as a society to help these children, instead of judging them, that would be worth it.”