Man’s DNA at homes in break-and-enter and theft spree in South Okanagan not enough to convict – Penticton News

DNA evidence was not enough to convince a judge that a possible serial squatter is guilty of a spree of South Okanagan thefts and break-and-enters.

In B.C. Supreme Court in Penticton Friday morning, Kevin Leclerc, 53, was facing five separate counts of breaking and entering and committing theft — theft or intent to commit an indictable offence being a key component of the specific criminal code charge.

Court heard that Leclerc’s DNA was found at one business and four residences in the South Okanagan from late 2014 through 2017, all of which were robbed and the residences apparently squatted in.

On Dec. 24, 2014, the co-owner of Intersection Winery in Oliver discovered a hole in their garage door, disarray inside, 330 missing wine cases and an open bottle of wine. The bottle was swabbed, and later testing matched Leclerc.

On Jan. 28, 2016, a man checking on an empty seasonal Osoyoos residence found it in disarray, with clear evidence one or more people had been staying there, and called police. Items were missing and the house was damaged, to the tune of $50k total. DNA from a fork and cigarette butts later matched Leclerc.

On Jan. 27, 2017, an anonymous caller tipped off police to a suspected break in at another Osoyoos residence, the owners of which were in Mexico. Police found it in a similar state of disarray, clearly lived in. Two vehicles were stolen and damage done, for a total of $12k in damages. Leclerc’s DNA was found.

On May 19, 2017, an officer checked on a Naramata residence whose owners had been away for two weeks and noticed evidence of a break-in, and motion sensors covered up with shaving cream and foil. The home appeared lived in, with dishes and debris all around and unmade beds. Total damages and theft added up to $15k, and Leclerc’s DNA was found.

On Aug. 28, 2017, there was a report of a break-in to an unoccupied Apex Mountain Resort residence. The owners had been away for several weeks. A police officer attended, and as with the other residences, it was clear one or more people had been using the property.

And once again, Leclerc’s DNA was found. The DNA swab testing took place in February 2020.

Despite clear evidence of his presence at the properties, none of the stolen property was ever found in Leclerc’s possession, and DNA of other individuals were also present in some cases.

That was the crux of the defence’s argument — no actual proof that the break-and-enter or the theft was Leclerc, or someone else, or that he entered the properties with the intent to commit an indictable offence.

The residences in Osoyoos, Apex and Naramata had been absent of owners for several weeks.

“It is possible that the thefts, on one hand, and the serial presence in the home, on the other, occurred at a different point in time within the extended windows in which the homes were unoccupied and unmonitored,” Justice Jasmin Ahmad said Friday.

“The fact that the showers and kitchens were used, and the presence of food waste and grocery items in the home is consistent with someone, perhaps Mr. Leclerc, using each of the homes as a place to sleep, and essentially as a place to live. A state of disarray in the premises is indicative that he did so over a period of days or longer.”

Since other people may have been present in the home, Ahmad reasoned, she could not find him guilty of break -and-enter and theft, nor could she find him guilty of the lesser included charge under that section of the criminal code of break-and-enter with intent to commit theft.

“I’m satisfied that the circumstances of Mr. Leclerc’s entry into the residential premises are such that I cannot reasonably conclude that he intended to commit theft,” Ahmad said, finding him not guilty for all four residential incidents.

As for the winery incident, Ahmad did not feel there was any other logical conclusion for Leclerc’s presence inside the business other than intent to commit theft, finding him guilty of that charge. However, she did not find him guilty of the actual theft, given lack of evidence.

A sentencing date for Leclerc will be set in February.