Court denies appeal for man convicted of manslaughter in strangulation death

Nova Scotia's top court will not grant a second trial to a man convicted in the death of a Cape Breton woman whose remains were found in a hockey bag floating on a river.

The province's Court of Appeal says Morgan James McNeil only became interested in an appeal after he learned that his co-accused, Thomas Barrett, received a lighter sentence.

McNeil pleaded guilty to manslaughter in September 2016 for his role in the 2012 death of 21-year-old Laura Jessome, and is serving seven years in prison.

According to an agreed statement of facts read out during McNeil's plea, Barrett allegedly strangled Jessome after McNeil dragged her into the apartment where the men had been hanging out and doing drugs.

Barrett was initially charged with second-degree murder in the case but that charge was dropped when prosecutors said they stood no chance of getting a conviction because witnesses were unco-operative.

Barrett instead pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact and was sentenced to 60 months in custody in October 2017.

At that time he was already serving a life sentence for second-degree murder in the strangulation death of another young woman.

McNeil, now 27, tried to file an appeal of his conviction and sentence in December 2017 but was told he was well past the deadline of 30 days from the time of his sentencing.

Nova Scotia's Court of Appeal allowed McNeil to file a motion for an extension, but Justice Cindy Bourgeois wrote in her decision that McNeil had no intention of appealing during the prescribed period.

She says he only wanted to appeal his conviction when he heard about the other man's lighter sentence.