A Vernon woman was sentenced 10 years after entering a guilty plea to a lesser charge of being a party to a manslaughter in connection with the death of a man inside a Vernon apartment in July 2017. (Morning Star - file photo)

A Vernon woman was sentenced 10 years after entering a guilty plea to a lesser charge of being a party to a manslaughter in connection with the death of a man inside a Vernon apartment in July 2017. (Morning Star - file photo)

10 years for Vernon woman’s role in ‘extremely brutal’ murder

Jaqueline Leavins was sentenced for manslaughter in relation to the murder of William Bartz in 2017

Disclaimer: This story contains graphic details that some may find offensive

A woman has been given a 10-year sentence for the role she played in the murder of William Frederick Bartz in his Vernon apartment in July 2017, after she intentionally goaded her boyfriend into carrying out what she knew would be a serious assault.

As heard by those present at the Vernon Supreme Court sentence hearing Friday (March 19), Jacqueline Nicole Leavins played no physical part in executing the murder. And backed by a list of rehabilitative actions she has taken while in custody — a list her lawyer said was the most extensive he’s ever seen for a two-year period — Leavins said the rest of her life will be devoted to rectifying the lost life of the victim — whom she admired as a friend.

In July 2017, after inciting her then-boyfriend and co-accused to violence by negatively comparing his sexual prowess to the victim’s, Leavins had followed her boyfriend to Bartz’s apartment where the “extremely brutal killing” took place, in the words of Crown prosecutor Laura McPheeters.

In the statement of agreed facts, the court heard Leavins had arrived at the apartment to find her boyfriend hitting Bartz with a hammer repeatedly.

She went into another room while the murder was carried out in full, and sat in the apartment alone for some time before leaving the scene untouched. The murder was described as “prolonged and savage,” with multiple weapons used including a machete. A blood pattern analysis found multiple rooms had been occupied during the course of the murder, from which it’s inferred that Bartz was at different points on his knees, lying down and moving around the apartment. His body was discovered by a friend the next day.

Leavins, born in 1978, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of manslaughter in August 2020 in relation to Bartz’s murder.

Arrested alongside her boyfriend on Oct. 12, 2018 on a second-degree murder charge, Leavins’ time already spent in custody leaves her with six years and four months of additional jail time.

READ MORE: Not guilty plea entered in Vernon murder trial

READ MORE: Crime down in Vernon, domestic violence on the rise: RCMP report

Defence and Crown counsel presented Supreme Court Justice Alison Beames with a joint submission Friday. Beames agreed with the 10-year sentence, which falls at the high end of sentencing for manslaughter, given the offence was “much closer to murder than it was to an accident.”

The name of Leavins’ boyfriend — the co-accused in the case — is protected by a publication ban to preserve his right to a fair trial in the future, after he was found unfit to stand trial in January 2020.

Leavins’ guilty plea came seven months after her co-accused’s remand was announced. As the defense counsel stated, she was and continues to be afraid of her ex-boyfriend, and came clean only after he had been deemed unfit for trial due to a stroke that has left him brain-damaged.

Among the stated aggravating factors was the victim’s vulnerability — he had suffered a brain injury of his own after being hit by a car several years prior— as well as the fact that he was murdered in his own home, where he had the right to feel he was safe.

In the weeks and days before the murder, Bartz kept turning up with cuts, bruises and other injuries, according to accounts from several witnesses. Bartz had told those unnamed witnesses that the injuries had been inflicted by the co-accused.

The court heard Bartz had called his mother a month before his murder to ask for money to purchase bandages and medication, explaining that a man had stabbed him in the legs because Bartz was having sexual relations with his girlfriend. Bartz contacted his mother again two weeks later with the same request.

In early July 2017, Bartz told a friend — the same friend who would later discover his body — that Leavins’s boyfriend had hit him over the head with a steel chair because Leavins had made sexual advances toward him.

On the night of the murder, witnesses saw Leavins leave Bartz’s apartment and walk to the co-accused’s residence, which was just at the end of the Sundance parking lot.

“While there, she broke (the co-accused’s) back window, flattened the tires of his bicycle and sprayed pepper spray inside the house in (his) room,” reads the agreed statement of facts.

As an Indigenous woman, several of Leavins’s family members had survived the residential school system. Her own mother was murdered in 1985, and she was placed in foster care at the age of six. She was adopted at nine years old and experienced sexual abuse at the hands of her adoptive grandfather.

Defense counsel said Leavins had excelled in school and had graduated early, having completed university courses in advance. But her life leading up to the offence was “chaotic and unstable,” and mired in drug and alcohol addiction, as Justice Beames noted.

Appearing by video, Leavins told the court that at the time of Bartz’s murder, her life was so off-track she believes she would have been on a path to her own death if not for her arrest and subsequent rehabilitative actions. Her life, she said, had been spared by the life she took part in ending.

“Will was a really good person … someone I genuinely admired and I miss him, too,” Leavins said in her apology to the family members, several of whom were present in court and submitted victim impact statements.

On the several occasions in which the court heard the litany of injuries described in the autopsy report — dozens of stab wounds, incisions and blunt-force trauma — Leavins’ sobs grew more audible.

“I owe it to Will to become a better person,” she said.

Justice Beames said she was fully convinced by Leavins’ statement of remorse, and wished her “the absolute best of luck … in honouring (Bartz’s) loss of life by turning your own life around.”

Beames wasn’t the only one who was moved by Leavins’ statement.

In an unexpected turn of events, the victim’s sister, Teresa Bartz, stood up at the end of Leavins’ statement and asked Justice Beames if she could address Leavins directly.

Though taken off guard, Beames obliged.

“I know Willy would forgive you,” she told Leavins with an even tone. “And I forgive you, too.”

Just before that happened, Teresa had given her victim impact statement, describing the trauma and depression that ran through her family following the loss of her brother, particularly in her father, who died two months after the murder.

“He gave up,” she said.

In addition to her added jail time, Leavins is subject to a lifetime ban on weapons and explosives.


Brendan Shykora
Reporter, Vernon Morning Star
Email me at Brendan.Shykora@vernonmorningstar.com
Follow us: Facebook | Twitter

CrimeManslaughter Trial

Just Posted

Doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine are seen being prepared on Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Decatur, Ga. Hundreds of children, ages 12 to 15, received the Pfizer vaccine at the DeKalb Pediatric Center, just days after it was approved for use within their age group. (AP Photo/Ron Harris)
One death, 60 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

The death is connected to the outbreak at Spring Valley long-term care in Kelowna

The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose in Canada is prepared at The Michener Institute in Toronto on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
One death, 39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

There are 484 active cases of the virus in the region currently

The Princeton Food Bank will eventually be located on First Street in the former United Church 
building. (Spotlight photo)
Princeton’s food bank to get new downtown home

Baptist church acquires former United church building

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
65 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Overall, B.C. is seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases

FILE - In this April 19, 2021, file photo, Keidy Ventura, 17, receives her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in West New York, N.J. States across the country are dramatically scaling back their COVID-19 vaccine orders as interest in the shots wanes, putting the goal of herd immunity further out of reach. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
5 more deaths, 131 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health over the weekend

Those 18-years and older in high-transmission neighbourhoods can register for the vaccine

Prince Rupert was one of the first B.C. communities targeted for mass vaccination after a steep rise in infections. Grey area marks community-wide vaccine distribution. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. tracks big drop in COVID-19 infections after vaccination

Prince Rupert, Indigenous communities show improvement

Municipal governments around B.C. have emergency authority to conduct meetings online, use mail voting and spend reserve funds on operation expenses. (Penticton Western News)
Online council meetings, mail-in voting option to be extended in B.C.

Proposed law makes municipal COVID-19 exceptions permanent

A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press)
British Columbians aged 20+ can book for vaccine Saturday, those 18+ on Sunday

‘We are also actively working to to incorporate the ages 12 to 17 into our immunization program’

The Maritime Kitchen Party is featured in the B-Side, the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre’s online series, May 13-16. (VDPAC photo)
B-Side keeps Okanagan musicians in Focus

Performing Arts Centre online concerts continue

The AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine. (AP/Eranga Jayawardena)
2nd person in B.C. diagnosed with rare blood clotting after AstraZeneca vaccine

The man, in his 40s, is currently receiving care at a hospital in the Fraser Health region

The. B.C. Court of Appeal granted a retrial to former Vernon man William Schneider, convicted of second-degree murder in the 2016 death of Japanese exchange student Natsumi Kogawa. The trial is set to begin May 24, 2022. (Vancouver Police Department photo)
Retrial date set for former Okanagan man’s murder conviction

William Schneider’s trial, connected to the death of Natsumi Kogawa, is set for May 2022

Brian Peach rescues ducklings from a storm drain in Smithers May 12. (Lauren L’Orsa video screen shot)
VIDEO: Smithers neighbours rescue ducklings from storm drain

Momma and babies made it safely back to the creek that runs behind Turner Way

Signage for ICBC, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, is shown in Victoria, B.C., on February 6, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
$150 refunds issued to eligible customers following ICBC’s switch to ‘enhanced care’

Savings amassed from the insurance policy change will lead to one-time rebates for close to 4 million customers

Police investigate a fatal 2011 shooting in a strip mall across from Central City Shopping Centre, which was deemed a gang hit. The Mayor’s Gang Task Force zeroed in on ways to reduce gang involvement and activity. (File photo)
COVID-19 could be a cause in public nature of B.C. gang violence: expert

Martin Bouchard says the pandemic has changed people’s routines and they aren’t getting out of their homes often, which could play a role in the brazen nature of shootings

Most Read