William Sandeson's retrial over death of Taylor Samson begins

The Crown in the first-degree murder trial of William Sandeson is accused of killing Taylor Samson in Halifax in August 2015. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press - image credit)
The Crown in the first-degree murder trial of William Sandeson is accused of killing Taylor Samson in Halifax in August 2015. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press - image credit)

The Crown in the first-degree murder trial of William Sandeson has laid out the case it intends to prove to a jury over the next two months. Sandeson is accused of killing Taylor Samson in Halifax in August 2015

This is the second time Sandeson has faced a trial on this charge. A new trial was ordered in 2020 after a verdict from a trial in 2017 was overturned on appeal.

In her opening address to the jury Tuesday morning, Crown prosecutor Carla Ball said the two men were meeting for a drug deal, and that Sandeson shot Samson to death. Ball said Samson was carrying 20 pounds — about nine kilograms — of marijuana in a plain black duffel bag when he went to Sandeson's apartment in south-end Halifax.

Ball told the jury that the evidence to prove the case will include testimony from a neighbour of Sandeson's, who will say he saw a large man in Sandeson's apartment on the evening of Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015. That man, Ball said, was slumped over at a table; a pool of blood, drugs and money at his feet.

Ball said police initially contacted Sandeson as they investigated Samson's disappearance as a missing person's case. Sandeson was 23 at the time and about to start studying at Dalhousie Medical School that fall.

Ball said Sandeson provided text messages he exchanged with Samson, and that when police reviewed those texts, they became suspicious and placed Sandeson under surveillance. They also did what Ball described as an emergency search of Sandeson's apartment but did not locate Samson there.

During their search of the apartment, the police recovered video from a security system that shows the hallway outside Sandeson's apartment. Still images from that video have been introduced as evidence. They show Samson carrying a large black duffel bag.

Victim's mother testifies

Ball said the search also found a bullet lodged in the window frame in Sandeson's kitchen and that Samson's DNA was found on the bullet and in other places in the apartment. Evidence to support these assertions has not yet been introduced.

Halifax Regional Police
Halifax Regional Police

The Crown's first witness was Samson's mother, Linda Boutilier. She testified she was living in Amherst, N.S., at the time and was expecting her son to visit her the day after he was killed. Boutilier said she found out Sunday evening that Samson was missing and she went to Halifax to join in the search for him. Boutilier broke down on the stand as she testified to searching through dumpsters as she combed the neighbourhood around Samson's apartment.

Under cross-examination by Sandeson's lawyer, Alison Craig, Boutilier said her son was "a big boy and he could protect himself." She said she was "shocked" to learn of the size of the alleged drug deal as she only knew her son to sell small quantities of marijuana to help cover his costs as a university student. Samson, 22, was in his fifth year of a physics degree at Dalhousie University at the time of his disappearance.

Victim's girlfriend testifies

The second witness was Mackenzie Ruthven, who was Samson's girlfriend. She testified she and Samson were supposed to go downtown with friends on the night of Aug. 15, but he left to meet with someone first. Ruthven said he left his keys and wallet behind and told her he would be right back. He never returned. Ruthven said she believed he was going to do a drug deal and he was carrying a large black duffel bag.

The Crown showed Ruthven still images from the security video from Sandeson's apartment. Ruthven sobbed as she confirmed that one of the men in the image was her boyfriend Samson.

Nova Scotia Courts
Nova Scotia Courts

Under cross-examination, Ruthven said she knew that Samson dealt drugs but she told Craig he tried to keep information about his drug dealing from her.

After Ruthven, the Crown called a series of police witnesses to lay out the early stages of their search. They testified there was a sense of urgency, because they were told by Samson's mother that he had a kidney condition that required medication and he could die without it.

When the trial began on Monday, 14 jurors were chosen. When it resumed on Tuesday, one of the men had been excused. No explanation was given. Justice James Chipman said the case would proceed with a "baker's dozen" of jurors, eight men and five women.

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