Thomas Ted Barrett of Glace Bay was found guilty Monday of second-degree murder in a case with no eyewitnesses, no cause of death, no DNA evidence and no murder weapon.
Following the verdict, the Crown said it was the totality of the evidence from 19 witnesses that convinced Justice Robin Gogan that Barrett strangled 20-year-old Brett Elizabeth MacKinnon.
MacKinnon's remains were found in 2008 but the medical examiner concluded she had died at least two years earlier. She was reported missing in July 2006.
No cause of death was determined but strangulation was not ruled out. The 40-year-old Barrett wasn't charged until 2013.
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He will also be tried this fall for second-degree murder in the killing of 21-year-old Laura Jessome in 2012. Jessome's body was found in a hockey bag in the Mira River.
Witnesses had nothing to gain
In delivering her verdict in the MacKinnon case, Gogan said her death occurred in a "dark and brutal drug culture" that may still exist today.
Many of the witnesses in this case were current or former drug addicts who used with and bought their drugs from Barrett.
Crown attorney Kathy Pentz said the judge had to consider that drug use when she was weighing witness evidence.
"It was the totality of the evidence that convinced her of the consistency in the statements," she said. "There was no [collaboration] between the witnesses so she certainly considered it, but concluded it did not impact on their credibility."
Gogan noted that a number of witnesses, with nothing to gain from their testimony, all told similar stories.
'Beyond a reasonable doubt'
Several said Barrett admitted choking or strangling MacKinnon and getting an "adrenaline rush."
Some said he told them there was a body in his bedroom.
Gogan cited testimony from a witness, Chris Andrews, that Barrett told him MacKinnon stole drugs from him so he jumped up, grabbed her by the neck and choked her until her pupils got big.
He said Barrett told him that's how he knew she was dead.
Gogan said in total, the evidence "in my view, establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that Barrett strangled MacKinnon."
MacKinnon's friends and family breathed a sigh of relief and a few shed tears when the verdict was announced.
Barrett showed little reaction.
He faces an automatic life sentence, but will learn on April 13 when he will be eligible for parole. Parole eligibility for second-degree murder ranges from 10 to 25 years and is set by a judge.
Pentz says at least four people will present victim impact statements, including MacKinnon's mother.