Manhunt target found not guilty in 'smoking gum' case
Ray Noftall, an ex-con who was the subject of a manhunt in St. John's last year, will not be going back to the prison system he has known through much of his life.
Noftall, 58, was found not guilty of armed robbery and six other charges during a hearing Thursday in provincial court in St. John's.
Noftall had been described as "armed and dangerous" by anxious police officers before he was apprehended last March.
But Justice Donald Burrage said the two witnesses in the Crown's case were not credible, and said they may have concocted their story of how Noftall supposedly had used a gun during a robbery in the Cowan Heights area of St. John's.
The weapon was never found.
After the alleged armed robbery was reported to the police, Noftall became the subject of a manhunt that lasted more than a week.
Noftall was eventually arrested at a motel in Whitbourne.
When questioned by the police, though, Noftall was incredulous of what he was told.
"His initial response was to say, 'This is the armed robbery that I have been f**kin' runnin' away from?'" Burrage wrote in his decision.
"During the interview he variously described the charge as 'a f**kin' joke,' 'bullshit,' 'hilarious' and 'retarded.' "
As well, Noftall divulged to police that he left town because he thought he was wanted for an armed robbery in Torbay, "an incident, if there was such an incident, of which he claimed no knowledge," Burrage said.
During the trial last week, Noftall's lawyer, Jason Edwards, took aim at the Crown over a piece of discarded gum, which Noftall was claimed to have spit out during the incident.
Edwards said the item — which he jokingly described in court as "a smoking gum" — had not been tested for DNA, and thus could have been chewed by anyone.