Jury seated in trial for killing of Lacey Yekel in Massena; opening statements later this afternoon
BY ANDY GARDNER
North Country This Week
CANTON -- The trial of the man accused of murdering 25-year-old Lacey Yekel in 2014 is underway in St. Lawrence County Court.
Christopher Hebert, 47, is charged with second-degree murder of Yekel, whose body was found “partially wrapped” off Route 420.The 12 jurors include nine men and three women. Alternate jurors are two men and two women. Opening statements are expected after noon lunch break, around 1:15 p.m.
Dozens of potential jurors were summoned to St. Lawrence County Courthouse for jury selection on Tuesday, March 12.
The court went through a lengthy process to screen potential jurors, speaking with many of them one-on-one in judge’s chambers to make sure they are able to serve for a trial that could take several weeks.
Both the prosecution and the defense asked potential jurors how they would handle a case that relies heavily upon witness testimony, without DNA or video evidence.
“If I don’t give you DNA, if I don’t give you a video, all I give you is what people tell you ... How do you judge someone’s credibility?” District Attorney Gary Pasqua asked the jury pool.
He also asked if they would consider witnesses with a criminal history as credible.
“What if someone’s been convicted of a crime before?” Pasqua said. “What if they’d committed 10 crimes? They can still tell the truth, right?”
“Do you have to like someone to believe them?” the DA asked.
Defense attorney Peter Dumas also asked jurors if they can judge credibility of
“Can somebody look you straight in the eye and believe, fully believe they’re telling the truth and not be?” Dumas asked. “If it was something somebody else had told them, is that something you’d take into account? Would that affect how you’d judge their credibility?”
Given that the case involves a girl who was murdered at a young age, Dumas asked jurors if they can put aside emotion and judge the case rationally.
“This is a murder case. There’s no getting around the fact that there’s a dead body involved,” Dumas said. “We need your assurance that you’re going to utilize that sympathy to make your decisions.”
On Aug. 29, 2014, a body that police described at the time as “partially wrapped” was found across from the NYSARC bottle return, off state Route 420. It turned out to be Yekel, who was 25 when she died.
The cadaver was in such a state that she was identified by DNA and dental records at the New York State Police Forensic Investigation Center.
Her death wasn’t labeled suspicious until sometime in 2016. That summer, state police Bureau of Criminal Investigation Capt. Robert LaFountain said they were seeking anyone who had been “operating a dark pickup truck in the area of Massena Industrial Park, or who may have been parked along Commerce Drive during late night or early morning hours” sometime at the end of May or beginning of June 2014.
Yekel’s mother, Bonnie Lamay, and cousin Ricky Lamay in 2016 told North Country This Week that they remember Lacey as a sweet, outgoing person and greatly miss her.
“She was a sweet girl. She loved kids, she was outgoing, she always had a smile on her face,” Bonnie Lamay said that year. “For being so young, she always held a job … she worked as much as she could. She was a good kid, she got into some trouble around here but everybody makes mistakes.”
“I mean she was like the butterfly of the family. She would do anything for anyone. Always had a beautiful smile on her face,” Ricky Lamay said at the time. “She messed up in life, she straightened herself out … she was a gorgeous little girl, inside and out. She was like a sister to me.”