A jury found an Edmonton man guilty Monday of killing and dismembering his wife.

Tesfai Negasi, 54, was on trial for second-degree murder in Edmonton Court of Queen's Bench for the death of his wife Selamawit, 46, on July 5, 2009. Negasi was also convicted of offering an indignity to a dead body.

The jury reached its verdict early Monday evening after deliberating for several hours. Second-degree murder charges carry an automatic life sentence.

The jury recommended Negasi not be eligible for parole for at least 20 years. Court of Queen's Bench Justice Juliana Topolinski will make her decision at a date that will be determined Friday.

The verdict was welcomed by Selamawit Negasi's friends.

"When she died, it was very emotional," said Fatma Ghebremusse.

Ghebremusse said Selamawit was heavily involved in the community and was able to raise "wonderful children" despite her marriage to Negasi, who she described as controlling.

"He's the one who lost ... he killed his wife. He lost his own children," Ghebremusse said.

The trial heard that Negasi drove to Edmonton police headquarters the night he killed his wife. He confessed the slaying to officers and directed them to her body parts in the trunk of his car.

Negasi's lawyer, Peter Royal, said in final arguments earlier Monday that the jury should instead find his client guilty of manslaughter, not second-degree murder. Negasi pleaded guilty to the charge of offering an indignity to a human body at the start of the trial.

Royal pointed to testimony from chief medical examiner Dr. Graeme Dowling, who could not say with certainty how Selamawit Negasi died.

Dowling told the jury he could only speculate about four possible scenarios: strangulation, suffocation, drowning or a crushed skull. 

Royal told the jury these options are only probabilities and something else might have happened that day.

That lack of certainty should have given the jury enough reasonable doubt not to convict Negasi of second-degree murder, Royal argued.

Crown prosecutor Tania Holland said that Negasi's behaviour after he killed his wife proved he intended to do it. She pointed to how he cleaned up the murder scene, dismembered his wife and put her body in garbage bags.

"One does not go to such lengths to cover up an accident or unintentional killing," Holland said, adding that Negasi confessed only because he thought he had been caught.

A number of witnesses told the jury that the couple had a dysfunctional, unhappy relationship. One of the couple's daughters testified her mother had an appointment with a divorce lawyer at the time she was slain.

 

With files from the CBC's Terry Reith