Guilty plea to manslaughter in Maple Ridge stabbing

Guilty plea to manslaughter in Maple Ridge stabbing

Homicide investigators look for evidence outside a loading dock where James William Ball was found on Sept. 25

Homicide investigators look for evidence outside a loading dock where James William Ball was found on Sept. 25

A man charged with second-degree murder in the death of another man found near a grocery store in Maple Ridge two years ago has pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

Andrew Edwin Robert Leach admitted to the lesser offence in New Westminster Supreme Court last Friday, but had initially pleaded not guilty and elected for a trial.

The plea deal was agreed to after Crown reviewed the available evidence.

“Following an assessment of the defence available to the accused and the evidence that was called at the preliminary hearing, the Crown concluded that the evidence did not provide a substantial likelihood of conviction on a murder charge,” said Neil MacKenzie, a spokesperson for the criminal justice branch, which oversees criminal prosecutions in B.C.

After the review, Crown felt it would not be possible to establish “the required level of intent” for a murder conviction, agreeing to a plea on the lesser charge instead.

Leach was charged with second-degree murder on Sept. 30., 2009, five days after the body of James William Ball was found at a Safeway in the 20200-block of Lougheed Highway by a delivery driver around 6:15 a.m.

Ball, who had the nickname ‘Chief’, was lying in the loading dock area, bleeding from significant stab wounds.

The 43-year-old Maple Ridge man was transported to Ridge Meadows Hospital, where he died.

RCMP later determined that Ball and Leach had both been at Club Climax, on 207th Street, that night. The strip club is just a few blocks from Safeway.

Police said the murder was not linked to drugs, gangs or organized crime, but a dispute between the men.

Leach, 28, has been in custody since he was charged with murder two years ago.

Sentencing is set for November.