HALIFAX — William Sandeson arranged a drug deal to kill a fellow university student and steal nine kilograms of marijuana, a Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge said Tuesday before sentencing the former medical student and track athlete to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.
Sandeson was charged two years ago with first-degree murder in the death of 22-year-old Halifax resident Taylor Samson, a physics student at Dalhousie University whose body has yet to be found.
“Where’s Taylor, Will?” Samson’s mother Linda Boutilier shouted to Sandeson as he was escorted out of the courtroom.
The sentence and parole eligibility period are automatic for a conviction of first-degree murder, though Sandeson was given credit for 693 days in custody.
When asked by Justice Josh Arnold if he would like to address the court, the 24-year-old shook his head, and in a hushed tone replied, “No, my Lord.”
Samson’s brother, 22-year-old Connor Samson, told the court the crime has left him feeling lost and scared.
“I’m afraid to lose someone who’s really close to me,” he said in a victim impact statement.
His voice broke as he spoke about his older brother, saying he now fears for the family’s safety.
Sandeson, sporting a buzz-cut and a closely cropped beard, appeared emotionless and stared in the direction of Connor Samson as he read the statement during the sentencing hearing.
Arnold said it was on Aug. 15, 2015 that Taylor Samson went to Sandeson’s downtown Halifax apartment to sell nine kilograms of marijuana for $40,000 as part of a prearranged deal.
Samson was last seen alive on a video recording captured by Sandeson’s surveillance system that night. There were no images of Samson walking out when police reviewed the recordings, court heard.
The judge said Sandeson shot Taylor Samson while he was sitting at a kitchen table.
Arnold then described the moment a pair Sandeson’s track teammates looked inside the apartment after hearing what they believed was a single gunshot.
“Mr. Samson was slumped over in a chair, dead, with blood running out of his head. Money and drugs were on and around the kitchen table covered in Mr. Samson’s blood,” Arnold told the court.
“Mr. Sandeson was running around his apartment, not seeking to help Mr. Samson, but instead telling (his friends) that he had to clean up. He was picking up bloody money.”
Arnold said DNA matching Samson’s genetic profile was recovered from a handgun, black duffel bag and other items seized from Sandeson’s Henry Street apartment and his family’s farm in Truro, which is north of Halifax.
He said Sandeson had a $200,000 line of credit that was co-signed by his mother to pay for medical school, but in August 2015 — before he even started classes at Dalhousie University — more than $70,000 of that money had been spent.
Crown lawyers had argued Sandeson, motivated by greed, devised a scheme to kill Samson and steal the marijuana to pay off his debts. Arnold said there was no evidence Sandeson had $40,000 cash to pay for the drugs.
In his closing arguments, defence lawyer Eugene Tan conceded there was a “violent incident” at the apartment that night, but he said his client had always maintained there was someone else in the apartment.
Sandeson has reportedly filed an application to of appeal his conviction.
In the courtroom, Samson’s childhood friend Ryan Wilson stared at Sandeson as he read a victim impact statement Tuesday. He said Samson had a great sense of humour and would laugh so loud “your ears would ring.”
“(He) hugged so hard, your ribs would hurt,” said Wilson, who has a TS1 tattooed on his wrist — Samson’s initials and his team number in baseball.
“I never get to feel that loving friendship again.”
Wilson’s was one of 18 victim impact statements filed with the court. Several were read aloud Tuesday.
At the time of his arrest, Sandeson had already completed one year of medical school in the Caribbean, was a track and field athlete, worked two jobs and had a girlfriend. He was due to start medical school at Dalhousie University within a week of the slaying.
During questioning by police, Sandeson offered three different explanations for what happened the Taylor Samson, including one version that described unidentified assailants entering the apartment in body suits and whisking Samson away.
After an eight-week trial, a jury deliberated for 22 hours before delivering a guilty verdict on June 18.