Testimony begins in Robert Clifford second-degree murder retrial

·3 min read
Robert Clifford is charged with the second-degree murder of his estranged wife Nichole. (Remembering Nichole McKeith/Facebook - image credit)
Robert Clifford is charged with the second-degree murder of his estranged wife Nichole. (Remembering Nichole McKeith/Facebook - image credit)

A week later than originally scheduled, a Court of Queen's Bench justice has begun to hear evidence in the Robert Clifford second-degree murder trial.

Clifford is accused of killing his estranged wife Nichole in February 2017 in the Wainwright home they once shared.

This is Clifford's second time on trial. Last year, he was found guilty of second-degree murder, but the judge declared a mistrial after he found out about evidence that had not been entered by the Crown.

The Crown's first witness on Monday was the officer who discovered Nichole Clifford's body at the bottom of the stairs in the basement of her Wainwright house.

Nichole Clifford's friend asked RCMP to conduct a welfare check since she had failed to show up for work on Feb. 24, 2017 at 7 a.m. and she was not answering her phone, even though her truck was in front of the house.

Cpl. Wes Bensmiller and his partner got inside the home after a locksmith opened the front door for them. He said all the doors were locked and none of the windows were broken, so there didn't appear to be any sign of forced entry.

Nichole Clifford's purse and cellphone were on the couch in the main floor living room. The officer said no one was on the main floor, but a door leading to the basement was locked.

"Once we kicked the door in, right away at the bottom of the stairs, there was a female deceased, covered in blood," Bensmiller testified. "She was on her back."

Bensmiller noticed a belt right next to the body and broken glass on the floor that appeared to be from a shattered light bulb.

The officers made sure there was no one else in the basement and then secured the scene.

'Multiple' puncture wounds

A member of the RCMP forensic identification section who was assigned to take photographs of the crime scene testified that the belt spotted next to Nichole Clifford was extra small and appeared to be blood-stained.

RCMP/Court exhibit
RCMP/Court exhibit

"Perhaps it was used by the person responsible for the death," Sgt. Marian Oden testified.

Oden also seized a pillowcase with apparent blood stains. She said the young mother-of-two had blood on her neck, arms and shoulders along with "multiple" puncture wounds in her chest and bruises on her arms and hands.

Oden said Robert Clifford was considered to be the primary suspect. RCMP searched the house where he was staying with a friend and discovered dozens of empty Keystone beer cans and the couple's wedding photo album that had an apparent bloodstain on the cover.

When police searched the vehicle they believed Robert Clifford had been driving, they found two apparent blood stains on the driver's seatbelt.

Three days after Nichole Clifford was found at the bottom of the stairs, RCMP took photos of her estranged husband.

Oden said there was discolouration on his face around his left eye, his knuckles appeared to be bruised and there was a cut on his finger.

During cross-examination, the officer admitted it was an oversight that she failed to examine Robert Clifford's shoes to see if they were a match for any of the footprints in the snow outside the house.

No decision on defence application 

Last Monday, Clifford's lawyer asked Justice Nicholas Devlin to stay the murder charge against his client because it's been almost five years since Clifford was charged.

The judge has not ruled on the defence application, but on Monday morning said he hoped to hand down his decision within the next day or two.

Delilah McKeith/Facebook
Delilah McKeith/Facebook

Nichole Clifford's mother told CBC News she has completely lost faith in the justice system.

"I deal with this every single day," Delilah McKeith said in a phone interview. "The trauma, the pain and the anger… Two very traumatized children have lost a mother."

McKeith said she relocated with her husband and two grandchildren after Clifford was released on bail last December.

The trial continues Tuesday.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting