DA: Closure for Massena murder victim's family important part of case; will push for max sentence
District Attorney Gary Pasqua addresses reporters following Thursday afternoon's conviction in the Christopher Hebert murder trial. North Country This Week photo by Andy Gardner.
BY ANDY GARDNER
North Country This Week
CANTON -- District Attorney Gary Pasqua following Christopher Hebert’s murder conviction says the most important part of the case is closure for the victim’s family and says he will push for the harshest possible sentence.
Hebert, 47, was found guilty of second-degree murder following a weeklong trial and just under seven hours of jury deliberations. The jury decided that Hebert murdered Lacey Yekel on or around June 7, 2014 in Massena. Her skeletal remains were recovered from a wooded area near the Massena Industrial Park on Aug. 29, 2014.He says when Hebert is sentenced on May 6, he will ask the court to impose the maximum sentence allowed by law: 25 years to life.
“Absolutely we intend to ask for the maximum,” he said. “I’m thankful we were able to hold him accountable.”
“She was a young 24-year-old who despite her problems, had a future. She had many years to go,” the DA said.
The prosecutor said he is also grateful to Yekel’s relatives -- her mother, Bonnie Lamay, and cousin Bobbi Jo French -- for assisting when they could.
“That’s the most important thing that comes from this is Lacey Yekel’s family has closure,” Pasqua said. “They’ve been going through this process, supporting us.”
Lamay and French were in court for most of the trial. On the day where audio recordings of Hebert describing the murder were played, they came to the courthouse but chose not to come into the courtroom. When the guilty verdict was announced, they let out cries of relief and tears began to flow.
“Any case where you’re dealing with a victim’s family there’s emotions shared as well. That’s what we saw outside the courtroom,” Pasqua said of his interaction with the relatives after court adjourned.
The DA said the defendant’s admissions on tape and thorough evidence collection were crucial to this afternoon’s guilty verdict.
“I think what’s crucial … is Mr. Hebert confessed to killing Lacey Yekel, and that’s exactly what the jury heard,” Pasqua said. “He tried to spin a tale … and they saw through it.”
The jury heard recorded conversations where Hebert in 2017 admitted to his ex-girlfriend, Brandy Bressard, that he killed Yekel by beating and then strangling her. They also heard testimony from four other witnesses who said Hebert told them he committed the murder.
Hebert took the witness stand on Wednesday and claimed Yekel died from an overdose after injecting cocaine, and then hid her body out of fear of catching a homicide charge.
Pasqua also chalked the conviction up to thorough evidence recovery from the scene where Yekel’s remains were discovered.
“I doubt this ever would have come to trial or we’d get a conviction without New York State Police … for the last four-and-a-half years, they worked so hard on this case. Credit to that goes to them,” Pasqua said, adding that their Violent Crimes Unit and Forensic Identification Unit played a big part.
“Without them, we don’t have a case,” the DA said.
Pasqua also pointed to some of the witnesses who have long criminal histories, but still stepped up and gave honest testimony.
“Some of them are people who may be unsavory, but they came forward and told the truth and that’s all you can ask for,” he said.