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Strangling off-duty cop gave killer PTSD, defence tells sentencing judge

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HALIFAX — A lawyer for a Halifax man who strangled an off-duty police officer argues that his mental illness — brought on by the murder — should be a mitigating factor in deciding his parole eligibility.

Christopher Garnier, 30, was convicted in December of second-degree murder and interfering with a dead body in the 2015 death of 36-year-old Catherine Campbell.

The jury found that Garnier strangled Campbell, a Truro police officer, and used a compost bin to dump her body near a harbour bridge on Sept. 11, 2015, after the pair met at a Halifax bar.

The murder conviction carries an automatic life sentence, but a hearing to determine when Garnier will be able to apply for parole is scheduled for Monday in Nova Scotia Supreme Court.

In submissions filed with the court, defence lawyer Joel Pink said his client was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder by a psychiatrist hired by the defence, Dr. Stephen Hucker, and by the psychologist who is currently treating him.

The event that brought on the PTSD: the murder itself.

Hucker, who testified at the trial, said in a report that Garnier suffered from acute stress disorder immediately following Campbell’s death, Pink noted.

Garnier repeatedly told the jury he does not remember using a large green compost bin to dispose of the woman’s body near the bridge, where it stayed undetected for nearly five days.

“The testimony of Dr. Hucker clearly indicates that there is a strong link between Mr. Garnier’s illness and his interference with human remains; therefore, it should be considered a mitigating factor in his sentencing (on that charge),” Pink said in his submissions to Justice Joshua Arnold.

“Courts have consistently held that a sentencing court’s application to the principles of sentencing will be influenced by the presence of a mental illness. In such circumstances, the primary concern in sentencing shifts to treatment as the best means of ensuring the protection of the public and that the offending conduct is not repeated.”

Parole eligibility for second-degree murder must be set between 10 and 25 years.

Pink argues Garnier should serve 10 years behind bars — 10 years for the second-degree murder charge and two years for interfering with a dead body, with the sentences to be served concurrently.

He said Garnier should be on the lower end of that spectrum because he has been described as a “kind, caring person” who has shown remorse for the killing, which Garnier has argued happened accidentally during rough sex. The lawyer also included 31 letters of support from friends and family.

Garnier’s parole eligibility hearing was previously set for May, but it was adjourned in part to allow Hucker — who is based in Toronto — to testify.

Meanwhile, the Crown is arguing Garnier should serve 16 years before he’s able to apply for parole, calling him “calculating,” “manipulative” and “dangerous.”

“Mr. Garnier not only murdered Ms. Campbell, he interfered with Ms. Campbell’s remains. He demonstrated a callous disregard for Ms. Campbell, and made an attempt to cover his crime,” Crown lawyers Christine Driscoll and Carla Ball argued in their submissions to Arnold.

“The message should be sent that Mr. Garnier should forever be remembered as the person who stole Ms. Campbell’s future for no reason, and then treated her remains like garbage.”

The prosecution also noted that Campbell died in a “gruesome way, in that it would not have been quick and immediate.”

“Her nose was broken, the cartilage in her neck was broken. He moved her body and concealed numerous pieces of evidence, some of which was never recovered,” the submissions said.

“He should be remembered as someone who tried to cover up his crime. His parole eligibility period should reflect the nature of the offence, his future dangerousness, and deterrence.”

The Crown has said as many as 10 victim impact statements have been filed as part of the hearing.

Garnier is appealing his conviction in part because he says police interview tactics elicited a false confession.

Follow (at)AlyThomson on Twitter.

Aly Thomson, The Canadian Press



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Woman and her dog lost for 72 hours in B.C. woods are found safe

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INVERMERE, B.C. — A 52-year-old woman and her dog are both safe and unharmed after wandering lost for 72 hours in the thick woods in southeastern B.C.

RCMP Sgt. Chris Newel says Louise Baxter hopped off a rescue helicopter Wednesday, hugged her husband and was talking and laughing with her rescuers.

Baxter went out for a hike with friends in the Jumbo Pass area on Sunday, but she disappeared after taking her leashed dog out for what she said would be a short walk.

Newel says Baxter appears to have become disoriented shortly after leaving her friends and then heading down the mountain, moving “west when she probably should have been heading east.”

The dog, a golden poodle named Maverick, was with her the whole time and Newel says the animal is also in good health. 

At the height of the search, there were three helicopters, four search dogs, a drone and 35 search and rescue volunteers looking for the woman in the difficult, mountainous terrain.

Newel, who was the incident commander for the search, said Baxter saw the search helicopters and tried to flag them down, but no one saw her.

“But if anybody’s every been in a helicopter, trying spot a person in forested area is extremely difficult and a lot harder than you would think,” he said in an interview on Thursday. “I can’t imagine the emotion that would have gone through her seeing these helicopters and not be able to signal them in some sort of way.”

Baxter is an avid hiker, Newel said, adding the general rule of thumb for those who get lost in the woods is to stay put. Baxter did stay in one place for a while but proceeded down the mountain because she thought help wasn’t coming, he said.

“But she was working further and further out from the primary search area.”

He said she found water along the way and ate berries, but didn’t have anything else to eat.

“I couldn’t believe when she walked off that helicopter and practically ran to her husband,” Newel added.

 

The Canadian Press


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Greens won’t run candidate in Burnaby South as ‘leader’s courtesy’ to Singh: May

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VICTORIA — The Green party will not run a candidate against NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh in the riding of Burnaby South.

Green Leader Elizabeth May says the decision is an extension of a “leader’s courtesy,” a long-standing Canadian parliamentary tradition that facilitates a newly elected party leader’s entry to the House of Commons in an unopposed byelection.

She says in a statement the Greens believe it is right to step aside to allow the leader of “an important part of the political spectrum” to serve in Parliament.

Singh announced his candidacy for the federal riding after New Democrat MP Kennedy Stewart indicated he was stepping aside to run for mayor of Vancouver.

The Liberal and Conservative parties have not announced candidates in the riding, but the Liberals have said they will contest the byelection.

May received the leader’s courtesy in 2008 when then-Liberal leader Stephane Dion chose not to run a candidate against her in Central Nova. She extended the same gesture to Dion.

In 2002, the Liberals and Conservatives stepped aside for Stephen Harper when he ran in a byelection held shortly after he became leader of the Canadian Alliance.

No date has been set for a byelection.

Singh sat in Ontario’s legislature and served as the provincial NDP’s deputy leader before he replaced Tom Mulcair as the federal leader.

The Canadian Press


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