Alleged Kelowna hamster killer faces new charge

New charge in hamster case

A Kelowna man accused of torturing and killing hamsters, and posting videos of it online, is now facing an additional charge related to the disturbing allegations.

Leighton Labute, 20, was arrested on May 22, 2020 after videos of a person torturing and killing three hamsters were uploaded to the website Reddit. Police said they were alerted to a video depicting the abuse of a hamster on May 14, 2020, and quickly linked the video to Labute.

He was charged with three counts each of killing or injuring an animal and causing unnecessary pain/suffering to an animal. The charges allege the offences occurred on May 1, 2019, more than a year before he was arrested.

Last week, the Crown filed a new charge against Labute, alleging he published obscene material on May 11, 2020. It's unclear why the charge wasn't filed originally.

Additionally, the Crown has “consolidated” the previous six charges into two charges, which now refer to “one or more hamsters,” rather than an individual charge for each animal.

The maximum punishment for publishing obscene material is two years in jail, while the other two charges carry a maximum penalty of five years in jail. None carry minimum mandatory sentences.

Labute remains out of custody, after he was released on $1,000 bail on May 25. His case will next appear in Kelowna court on Oct. 27.

Labute is also connected to Instagram and YouTube accounts that feature clay sculptures and "claymation" videos depicting disturbing scenes of sexual violence, gore and rape.

Since his arrest, protesters have gathered outside the Kelowna courthouse during his court appearances, demonstrating against his alleged actions.

Organizer Bodreay Fraser, who said she lives on the same street as Labute, told Castanet in September that they plan on attending court every time Labute makes an appearance.

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