A man who strangled a Vancouver sex trade worker in 1993 apologized to the court for his actions, calling them “despicable,” and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Steven Frank Laroche, who in 1997 was convicted of the 1996 murder of a Winnipeg sex trade worker in similar circumstances to the Vancouver case, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to the March 1993 manslaughter of 23-year-old Vicki Black, the mother of a five-year-old girl.
He had been sentenced to life in prison with no parole eligibility for 10 years for the Winnipeg homicide and was on parole when he was arrested in 2019 for the slaying of the Vancouver woman.
Because the Vancouver case pre-dated the Winnipeg case, the judge in the Vancouver case had to treat him as a first-time offender.
Court heard Tuesday that the body of Vicki Black was found in a dumpster in the lane behind a restaurant on East Hastings. She was naked except for a bra that was pushed up over her breasts.
Black’s body was wrapped in a grey bed sheet that was bound by an electrical cord. A pathologist determined that she had been strangled and sustained numerous blunt force injuries and scratches. She had also suffered a severe penetrating injury to her vagina.
The initial police investigation concluded after two years with no suspects identified and was reopened several times before Vancouver police in 2013 submitted additional swabs seized during the autopsy for lab analysis, which resulted in DNA linking Laroche to the crime scene.
Police launched a lengthy undercover operation targeting Laroche, who by this time was living in Hamilton, Ont.
Laroche, who was 24 at the time of Black’s killing and is now 52, confessed to strangling a sex trade worker matching the victim’s description following a dispute over payment for sex in his apartment. He became angry and choked her to death.
“This was a brutal offence,” Associate Chief Justice Heather Holmes of the B.C. Supreme Court said in imposing sentence on Laroche. “Ms. Black was particularly vulnerable as a sex trade worker and Mr. Laroche treated her body with utter disrespect.”
The judge added that after considering all of the circumstances, she accepted the joint submission of Crown counsel Daniel Mulligan and defence lawyer Karin Blok for the 10-year sentence, at the high end of the range for manslaughter.
After receiving credit for pre-sentence custody, Laroche will have eight years and 10 months of prison time to serve.
The mother of Black said in a victim impact statement that the slaying changed every aspect of her life and she always feared that her daughter’s killer could harm other women.
“Since Vicki’s death, I’ve hoped that I would one day know that he can no longer hurt anyone. It was distressing to learn that he had murdered a young woman in similar circumstances in 1996.”
Laroche, who was initially charged with second-degree murder for the Black slaying and has had substance abuse and mental health issues, appeared visibly distraught as he apologized.
“I am very sorry for what I have done to Vicki Black and her family and friends,” said Laroche. “It was despicable what I had done, taking her life and trying to dispose of the body.”
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