HALIFAX — A Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge is set to hear how the violent death of Kristin Johnston affected her family and friends during a parole eligibility hearing for the man convicted of stabbing her.
Nicholas Butcher, 36, was convicted of second-degree murder in April in the death of the Montreal-born businesswoman and yoga instructor.
The conviction carries an automatic life sentence, but a hearing Friday will determine when Butcher will be able to apply for parole.
Crown lawyer Carla Ball has confirmed that more than 13 victim impact statements have been filed as part of the hearing. She said some statements will be read aloud in court before Justice Joshua Arnold.
Ball also said the prosecution may call evidence of a past relationship involving Butcher.
He was charged after police found Johnston's body next to a steak knife on a blood-soaked bed inside her Halifax-area home on March 26, 2016.
Butcher, a law school graduate who wasn't able to find work in his field, was living with Johnston at the time of her death.
The jury heard that he called 911 and told the dispatcher he had killed his girlfriend and tried to kill himself. He also cut off his right hand with a mitre saw, but it was surgically reattached.
The Crown had argued Butcher deliberately killed Johnston, 32, after realizing their relationship was deteriorating.
"This case is about a man who had significant financial challenges. He was highly educated, but underemployed. It caused him significant upsets leading up to March 25, 2016,'' said Ball during her closing arguments, referring to Butcher's $200,000 debt from law school.
"And if that wasn't enough... he realized that the investment that he put into the relationship with Kristin Johnston deteriorated in a blink of an eye. These factors built up like a constellation until he decided that if he could not have Kristin Johnston, no one else could have her.''
But taking the stand in his own defence, Butcher argued that Johnston had attacked him and that he was acting in self-defence when he killed her.
Butcher — the defence's only witness — testified it was dark and he couldn't see who it was, but managed to grab the knife and lash out, realizing seconds later he had killed Johnston.
"I reached over and I turned on the lamp, and the person that was beneath me was Kristin and she was dead,'' said Butcher during the trial, breaking into tears.
"I just killed her by accident, just not even knowing what's going on.''
The defence argued that Johnston was under intense stress following the closing of her business, and snapped at Butcher because he was getting in the way of her plan to rekindle a relationship with an old friend.
Johnston, whose brother owned a Bikram yoga studio in her hometown of Montreal, came to Halifax in 2011 with dreams of opening her own studio.
She was quickly embraced by the local yoga community, becoming known as a kind and determined businesswoman with a magnetic personality. Despite her passion, Johnston's studio shuttered about a month before her death.
Friends testified that Johnston wanted to leave her Halifax life behind, and was ready for a new chapter in Tofino, B.C., where her sister lived.
The jury heard from 32 witnesses over 14 court days.
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Aly Thomson, The Canadian Press