A Halifax-area man has been sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for at least 15 years for the murder of his girlfriend.

Paul Trevor Calnen was convicted in November of second-degree murder in the death of Reita Jordan. He pleaded guilty to committing an indignity to human remains just as his murder trial was getting underway.

"These were senseless, cruel and cowardly crimes," Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice James Chipman said Wednesday. "Your monstrous crimes have shocked the community."

The murder conviction carries an automatic life sentence. Wednesday's hearing was to determine how much time Calnen must serve before he can apply for parole.

Calnen sat motionless through most of the sentencing arguments, but he appeared to get emotional when Justice Chipman recounted how Calnen burned Jordan's body and scattered her ashes.

The Crown argued Calnen should spend at least 17 years behind bars before he is eligible for parole due to the nature of his crime. The defence argued for 10 years.

Victim's body never found

Jordan disappeared from the Hammonds Plains home she shared with Calnen on March 18, 2013. Her body was never found.

Calnen insisted he didn't kill Jordan. He maintained she died after taking a swing at him.

Crown prosecutor Susan MacKay told the court Wednesday that the burning was an aggravating factor and should increase the amount of time Calnen spends in prison before parole eligibility. 

Twenty-five letters were submitted to the court in support of Calnen. His lawyer, Peter Planetta, said each one shows Calnen was a caring, hard-working individual.

The defence closed its arguments by saying that 17 years before parole eligibility would push Calnen's crime close to first-degree murder.

In the end, the judge came two years short of the Crown's request, deciding that 15 years before being eligible for parole is more suitable for Calnen.  

Planetta said the conviction will be appealed.

The CBC's Blair Rhodes live blogged from Nova Scotia Supreme Court.