Quinte murder suspects will face preliminary inquiry in early 2025

Inset photos (L to R): Aaron Ryan, Khadijah Courneyea, Harold Russell, Steven Courneyea, and Morgan Belyea. The five are charged with murder in the death of a 17-year-old boy earlier this year. Large photo: Belleville Court of Justice building.

A preliminary inquiry will be held in January for five Quinte area residents charged with the first-degree murder of a local teenager.

Lawyers for the five accused met virtually with Justice of the Peace David Auger on Monday, May 27, 2024 in Belleville’s Ontario Court of Justice to confirm the date of the inquiry, which is set for January 2025.

A preliminary inquiry is a judicial hearing used in severe criminal cases to determine whether the evidence assembled by the Crown against an accused person is sufficient to proceed with a trial. The preliminary inquiry is not a trial in the strict sense. However, evidence is given under oath, and the accused or the accused’s legal counsel is entitled to cross-examine any witnesses summoned by the Crown.

The five accused, from various parts of Quinte region, are accused of murdering the 17-year-old, whose lifeless body was found in a Quinte West motel in early January.

The case details are subject to a publication ban under Section 486.4(2.2) of the Criminal Code, which requires that a judge order the ban of publishing any information identifying an underage victim.

On Sunday, Jan. 7, 2024, at approximately 11 a.m., members of the Quinte West Detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) responded to a well-being check at a motel on Dundas Street East in Trenton. Officers found a 17-year-old male deceased at that location. As a result of the investigation, five people were arrested and charged with first-degree murder:

  • Morgan Belyea, 22, of Belleville
  • Steven Courneyea, 27, of Belleville
  • Harold Russell, 43, of Quinte West 
  • Aaron Ryan, 28, of Quinte West
  • Khadijah Courneyea, 29, of Quinte West. 

On Tuesday, Apr. 9, 2024, the OPP announced additional charges:

Belyea, Steven Courneyea, and Russell were further charged with:

  • Conspiracy to commit murder
  • Robbery with a weapon

Khadijah Courneyea and Ryan were further charged with:

  • Conspiracy to commit murder
  • Robbery with a weapon
  • Obstructing a peace officer

Justice of the Peace Leona Dombrowsky applied a publication ban to all new charges when four of the five accused appeared before her on April 11, 2024.

On February 22, 2024, Steven Courneyea was also charged with multiple other offences related to theft, theft of vehicles, breaking and entering, and possession of stolen property obtained by crime. Those charges are not subject to a publication ban.

According to an OPP release, the investigation into the homicide continues under the direction of the OPP Criminal Investigation Branch, in conjunction with the Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario and the Ontario Forensic Pathology Service.

Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to contact the Quinte West OPP at 1-888-310-1122. Those who wish to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222- 8477 (TIPS), where they may be eligible to receive a cash reward.

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