Halifax man accused in death of off-duty officer guilty of second-degree murder

HALIFAX — A jury has found Christopher Garnier guilty of punching and strangling Nova Scotia police officer Catherine Campbell, rejecting his claim that the off-duty officer died accidentally during rough sex.

The 12-member Nova Scotia Supreme Court jury delivered its verdicts Thursday after 4.5 hours of deliberations, declaring the 30-year-old Halifax man guilty of second-degree murder and interfering with a dead body.

Garnier looked down and held his face in his hands after the verdicts were read. Members of his family sobbed uncontrollably. Campbell’s family showed little emotion until they emerged from the courtroom, where they cried and hugged.

A second-degree murder conviction carries an automatic life sentence. A hearing to determine Garnier’s parole eligibility is scheduled for May 7, 2018.

Court heard Garnier met the 36-year-old Truro police constable at a Halifax bar in the early hours of Sept. 11, 2015. The jury watched surveillance video showing Garnier and Campbell kissing and dancing before leaving the Halifax Alehouse around 3:30 a.m. The prosecution said the two went to an apartment on McCully Street, where Garnier was staying with a friend.

Crown attorney Christine Driscoll told the jury Garnier lost control during a sexual encounter with Campbell, stuffed her lifeless body into a compost bin, and dumped her remains in thick brush in the area of Halifax’s Angus L. Macdonald Bridge.

“The truth is that Ms. Campbell did nothing wrong,” Driscoll said in her closing arguments Monday. “Her life was over and she was treated like trash,”

During a nine-hour recorded interview with police, Garnier said he hit Campbell with his fist and had his hands around her throat as she was choking, but he repeatedly said he could not remember other details from that night.

Testifying in his own defence, Garnier told the jury through tears that during sex play, Campbell encouraged him to choke and slap her.

“If she ever resisted, I would have stopped,” he said.

At one point during his testimony, defence lawyer Joel Pink asked Garnier to step down from the witness stand and describe what he claimed happened on the pullout couch inside the apartment.

Using a long table as a prop, Garnier lay down on his side and told the jury his right forearm was across Campbell’s neck when she asked him to slap her. He said he wasn’t looking at her at the time, but he felt his arm getting wet and saw blood. Garnier said when he returned from retrieving a towel, Campbell wasn’t moving.

Garnier told police he heard Campbell gasp for air before she stopped breathing.

After Campbell died, Garnier said his vision became blurry, he heard loud noises and he couldn’t remember much else.

Under cross-examination, Driscoll asked Garnier why he did not call 911 or attempt CPR, despite his training as a firefighter.

He did not offer an explanation.

Driscoll pointed to inconsistencies in his version of events, noting he never mentioned rough sex to the police during his interview.

Garnier later told the jury he didn’t want the officers to think “I was just trying to blame it on her.”

“Well you’re blaming her today, aren’t you?” Driscoll said.

Nova Scotia’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Matthew Bowes, testified that Campbell died of strangulation and suffered head injuries, including black eyes and a fractured nose.

After the verdict was read aloud, Campbell’s mother, Susan Campbell, said she was happy with the outcome.

“For almost two-and-a-half years, we’ve sought justice for Catherine, and today we feel we have justice for Catherine,” she said outside of court, standing next to Campbell’s father, Dwight Campbell, and her aunt Amanda Wong.

Pink said his client was in shock.

“But that’s something to be expected,” he said, adding that it’s too early to say whether he’ll file for an appeal.

Halifax

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, reported 323 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)
‘We’re in a danger zone,’ says Hinshaw

The province’s top doctor says “we’re in a danger zone” when it… Continue reading

Mayor Tara Veer pleads with the premier Tuesday to review the decision to move to a consolidated EMS dispatch system, which will be moved to three centres across the province. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
‘Issue of life and death’: mayors plead with government to halt consolidated EMS dispatch

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer calls on premier to overturn consolidated EMS dispatch decision

A $2.3-billion expansion of Alberta’s natural gas transportation system has been approved. “This should provide significant benefits — and we need every little bit of economic boost we can get,” says Reg Warkentin, policy adviser for the Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce. (Flickr photo)
Red Deer-area to benefit from $2.3 billion gas pipeline expansion project

Project will add 344 km of new pipeline between RMH and Grande Prairie

Dustin Snider was elected the new board president for Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)
Earl’s Restaurant manager re-elected Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce president

Dustin Snider has been re-elected president of the Red Deer & Distict… Continue reading

Red Deer singer Kayla Williams hopes listeners fed up with the pandemic are comforted by her new song, Stealing from My Youth, which is digitally available for streaming on Friday. (Contributed photo).
Red Deer singer summarizes universal pandemic feelings in a new single

Kayla Williams releases ‘Stealing From My Youth’ on Friday

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw warms up before Game 1 of the baseball World Series against the Tampa Bay Rays Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Kershaw, LA stars shine, Dodgers top Rays 8-3 in WS opener

Kershaw, LA stars shine, Dodgers top Rays 8-3 in WS opener

Manchester United's Marcus Rashford leaps over a challenge by PSG's Presnel Kimpembe during the Champions League group H soccer match between Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester United at the Parc des Princes in Paris, France, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
Man United wins again at PSG; Messi scores in Barca rout

Man United wins again at PSG; Messi scores in Barca rout

Hamilton Forge coach Bobby Smyrniotis, right, hugs captain Kyle Bekker following their victory in the Canadian Premier League soccer final against the Calgary Cavalry in Calgary, Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019. Under Smyrniotis, Forge FC has been the class of the Canadian Premier League. The two-time champions from Hamilton look to mark their internationally this week as they open CONCACAF League play in El Salvador. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Forge FC coach Bobby Smyrniotis’ influence on Canadian soccer continues to grow

Forge FC coach Bobby Smyrniotis’ influence on Canadian soccer continues to grow

Players' sticks are shown during a World Hockey Championships game in Moscow, Russia on Thursday, May 12, 2016. A senior hockey team in a small city in southern Manitoba has changed its name following a push against the use of Indigenous names and caricatures as mascots. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Ivan Sekretarev
Manitoba senior hockey team changes Indigenous name to Bombers

Manitoba senior hockey team changes Indigenous name to Bombers

Jason Kokrak tees off during the final round of the CJ Cup golf tournament at Shadow Creek Golf Course Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, in North Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)
Long drive champ Berkshire looking to compete in tournaments

Long drive champ Berkshire looking to compete in tournaments

The Los Angeles Dodgers line up during during the national anthem and a fly over before Game 1 of the baseball World Series against the Tampa Bay Rays Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Pandemic World Series draws smallest crowd in over century

Pandemic World Series draws smallest crowd in over century

Keegan Messing performs in the Gala at the 2020 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships in Mississauga, Ont., on Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Messing dedicating his Skate America performance to grounded Canadian teammates

Messing dedicating his Skate America performance to grounded Canadian teammates

Most Read