Closing arguments begin in trial of pair accused of killing Dartmouth woman

Closing arguments in the case of a woman who was murdered in Dartmouth two years ago began Tuesday in Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax.

Calvin Joel Sparks, 26, and Samanda Rose Ritch, 22, are both charged with first-degree murder in the death of Nadia Gonzales, and attempted murder in the stabbing of John Patterson.

Crown attorney Robert Kennedy told the jury in his summation Tuesday morning that Gonzales and Sparks had a drug dealing business relationship that "soured."

He showed text messages between the two that indicated their suspicion of each other and their concerns that the other was "a rat."

"In that world, rats are not tolerated," Kennedy told the jury.

Crown's theory outlined

Kennedy outlined the Crown's theory of the case against Sparks and Ritch, which is that Sparks put together a plan to kill Gonzales and enlisted his former girlfriend, Ritch, to assist.

He said they brought a black hockey bag, gloves and two knives to a Hastings Drive apartment where Gonzales was scheduled to arrive after spending the day making drug deliveries around the city.

The Crown said Gonzales arrived around 7:30 p.m. AT on June 16, and the attack happened as an ambush when she and her associate, John Patterson, knocked on the apartment door of Wayne Bruce and entered.

There were almost 40 stab wounds found on Gonzales' body, which the Crown said showed the stabbing happened "quickly and repeatedly."

The Crown argued Sparks knocked Gonzales down and went to the ground with her, attacking her in the head and neck.

Death by stabbing

Patterson, 72, testified he tried to get Sparks off Gonzales and was stabbed several times himself.

The Crown said while Sparks stabbed Patterson, Ritch attacked Gonzales with another knife.

DNA from Ritch was found on Gonzales' fingernails, which the Crown suggested came from Gonzales scratching Ritch's face during the attack, but the defence said that could have been transferred later. 

The Crown said Patterson fled and was later found outside the building, while Sparks and Ritch both attacked Gonzales.

Sparks and Ritch both had cuts on their hands, which the Crown suggested happened when Sparks accidentally cut their hands during the struggle to hold Gonzales down.

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Gonzales' body was found stuffed in a black hockey bag, and the Crown said Sparks and Ritch fled the scene through backyards.

Sparks' DNA was found on a nearby fence and bush, and a knife with DNA from Sparks and Gonzales was found in one of the yards.

The Crown said Sparks was the one with the "real motive" to kill Gonzales, while Ritch had "no particular motive, aside from her allegiance to Sparks."

However, the Crown argued that Ritch was an "active" participant in the stabbing.

Witness credibility questioned

However, defence lawyer Peter Planetta, who is acting for Samanda Ritch, said in his closing submissions that the Crown "engaged in fanciful speculation" and that the bulk of the Crown's case rests on testimony from "unsavoury" characters, some of whom were caught in lies on the stand.

John Patterson was a key witness for the Crown, but Planetta called into question his credibility given that Patterson has a criminal record, including a charge of sexual assault and numerous violations of court orders.

He also told the court he was addicted to crack cocaine, assisted Gonzales in selling drugs and had stolen to support his drug habit.

Planetta told the jury he caught Patterson being evasive and giving contradicting statements on the stand, such as stating at different times that he had or had not smoked crack on June 16, the day of the murder.

Defence of former girlfriend

Another key witness was Wayne Bruce — known as Batman — who lived in the apartment where the stabbing took place.

Bruce was initially charged along with Sparks and Ritch, and spent eight months in jail before charges against him were dropped.

Planetta told the jury on the stand Bruce admitted to dealing crack and said under cross-examination that it was "easy" to lie.

Planetta suggested to the jury that his client was present at the stabbing, but while some of her actions could constitute being an accessory after the fact, that is not the charge she faces.

He told the jury that if they have a reasonable doubt about Ritch's guilt, they must acquit her.

Defence lawyer Malcolm Jeffcock, who is representing Sparks, will make closing arguments on behalf of his client on Wednesday.

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