Robert Clifford loses bid to have 2nd-degree murder charge stayed

·2 min read
Robert and Nichole Clifford in an undated photo.  (Remembering Nichole McKeith/Facebook - image credit)
Robert and Nichole Clifford in an undated photo. (Remembering Nichole McKeith/Facebook - image credit)

A week before Nichole Clifford was found dead at the bottom of the stairs in her Wainwright home, she allegedly told her best friend that she was terrified of her estranged husband and afraid for her life.

Robert Clifford is charged with second-degree murder in the February 2017 stabbing death of the 31-year-old mother of two. This is the second time he has been tried for the same crime.

Last year, a judge found him guilty, but then declared a mistrial due to evidence omitted by the Crown.

Because the case has been before the courts for so long, Clifford applied for a stay on the murder charge.

On Tuesday, Court of Queen's Bench Justice Nicholas Devlin dismissed Clifford's application after analyzing who was responsible for the delays. Clifford is on his fifth lawyer.

The judge has been told that Nichole and Robert Clifford separated on Jan. 2, 2017. At first, she let her estranged husband stay in a travel trailer in the backyard. When a cold snap hit, she allowed him to move into a spare bedroom in the basement.

Nichole's best friend, Krista Perkins, got concerned enough to contact police when she got a disturbing phone call one night from her friend, she said Tuesday.

"She said that she was afraid," Perkins testified. "She said he was acting strange, he wasn't himself. She wasn't sure if he was capable of doing anything harmful to her."

Perkins said she was told the accused tore up pictures of Nichole, threw sand from their wedding ceremony into the garbage and accused her of infidelity.

"He had her pinned up against the wall," Perkins said. "So the cops escorted him off the property."

The next day, Robert Clifford moved his belongings out of the house. But Perkins said he broke into the home three times before her friend was killed.

RCMP/Court exhibit
RCMP/Court exhibit

On one occasion, Perkins' then-husband Travis Perkins escorted Nichole home because she was nervous. While Travis was checking the outside of the house, he said he heard Nichole begin screaming inside.

"He was being sneaky and sneaking around," Travis testified. "Breaking into the house and hiding."

He said he took Nichole to the courthouse to obtain a restraining order and divorce papers.

"Anything she could have used to keep him away from her and the children," Travis testified.

Krista said the third time Robert Clifford broke into the house, Nichole found him hiding underneath her bed. He was charged after that and taken into custody.

Krista Perkins testified that Clifford spent time behind bars before he was granted bail on Feb. 16, 2017.

"That evening, after the bail hearing, she told me she was terrified for her life," she said.

"She said his eyes were empty."

The trial continues Wednesday.

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