William Sandeson found guilty of 1st-degree murder

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William Sandeson has been found guilty of first-degree murder.

The jury, which deliberated for about 22 hours, returned its verdict at noon on Sunday.

Sandeson appeared impassive as the verdict was read in court.

First-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence without eligibility for parole for 25 years.

Formal sentencing is scheduled for Tuesday, July 11, at 9:30 a.m.

Sandeson, 24, was on trial for the first-degree murder of Taylor Samson, a fellow Dalhousie University student.

‘Take a bow, Billy,’ says victim’s mother

As Sandeson was led out of the courtroom after the jury’s verdict was announced, Samson’s mom said to him, “Turn around and take a bow, Billy.”

The jury began its deliberations on Thursday afternoon after Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Josh Arnold spent 3½ hours instructing jury members.

Samson went missing on Aug. 15, 2015. His body has never been found.

During the trial, court heard that both Sandeson and Samson were involved in the drug trade.

The prosecution alleged Sandeson was in money trouble and set up a drug deal with Samson on Aug. 15, 2015. When Samson arrived at Sandeson’s Halifax apartment, the Crown says Sandeson shot him to death and took his nine kilograms of marijuana. Samson’s body has never been found.

Taylor Samson

Taylor Samson, 22, was reported missing on Aug. 16, 2015. (Halifax Regional Police)

The defence argued during its closing arguments that Sandeson is not a criminal mastermind and urged the jury to find him not guilty.

During court testimony, neighbours who lived across the hall from Sandeson testified that on Aug. 15, 2015, they heard a loud bang and saw a man with dark, curly hair sitting at Sandeson’s kitchen table, bleeding profusely. They also saw drugs and cash.

They left, and when they returned later, they saw bloody streak marks on the floor leading toward the bathroom.

A shower curtain was later found on the Sandeson family farm with Samson’s DNA on it.

In the days after Samson disappeared, Sandeson’s brother Adam found a large quantity of marijuana in his basement after William Sandeson told him he was dropping by to do some laundry. Adam Sandeson and his roommates contacted a lawyer and the drugs were handed over to the police.

Jury did not hear some evidence

There were several significant pieces of evidence that the jury did not see or hear because they were deemed to be prejudicial to Sandeson. During the trial, there were 10 voir dires — trials within a trial during which the jury is sent out of the courtroom so lawyers can argue over issues and evidence.

Dalhousie Homicide 20170618

Crown attorney Susan MacKay, right, chats with Taylor Samson’s mother, Linda Boutilier, left, and his brother, Connor Samson, as they await a verdict on Sunday, June 18, 2017. (The Canadian Press)

For instance, on the second-last day of the trial, the defence tried to have a mistrial declared because its own private detective pointed out damning evidence to the police.

Private detective Bruce Webb had been hired by the defence to interview potential witnesses. Two of those witnesses, Justin Blades and Pookiel McCabe, had maintained for more than a year that they hadn’t seen anything.

But after they told Webb what they saw — a bleeding man slumped over Sandeson’s kitchen table — Webb tipped off police that they should speak with Blades and McCabe again.

The jury also didn’t hear that just weeks before Sandeson killed Samson, he allegedly threatened to dismember his girlfriend, dissolve her body in lye and dispose of it on his family’s farm near Truro.

While the jury saw parts of Sandeson’s interview with police, the interview was edited so jury members would not see a Halifax Regional Police officer berating the accused and calling him “a piece of shit.”

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William Sandeson found guilty of 1st-degree murder

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