Canadian soldier Howard Richmond was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder when he stabbed his wife to death with a knife and a screwdriver, then dumped her body in an Ottawa ditch more than two years ago, his lawyer said at his first-degree murder trial. 

Richmond pleaded not guilty at the outset of his trial before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Ottawa on Tuesday. His lawyer argued before the court that his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), caused by six tours of military duty, renders him not criminally responsible.

Melissa Richmond, 28, was found dead in deep ditch along Bank Street near South Keys Shopping Centre on July 28, 2013.

Her husband, then 52, reported to police four days earlier that his wife took a late-night drive and did not return to their Winchester home, located in a rural community about 60 kilometres south of downtown Ottawa.

Marriage was deteriorating, Crown argues

The Crown has argued the Richmonds' marriage had been deteriorating for several months before the killing. According to Crown attorney Peter Napier's opening statement, Melissa Richmond had been having an affair with a member of the medieval role-playing group that she and her husband belonged to.

"On the 24th of July, Melissa was a happy, vibrant 28-year-old on the verge of making changes," Napier's opening statement read. "But she would not live to see the morning sunlight on July 25th, because Howard Richmond killed her."

According to an autopsy report mentioned in the Crown's statement, Melissa Richmond had puncture wounds in her head and neck — wounds that were consistent with someone trying to defend themselves from an attack.

Video surveillance from a south Ottawa Walmart showed that 11 minutes after Melissa Richmond drove her car into the parking lot on July 24, 2013, a pickup truck with distinctive army decals matching the description of Howard Richmond's vehicle arrived at the shopping centre, the statement said.

When police officers executed a search warrant at the couple's Winchester, Ont., home on Aug. 2, they found a knife and a screwdriver, both covered in blood, wrapped inside men's black clothes and black neoprene gloves and stashed behind a ceiling rafter in the basement.

DNA analysis later showed the blood belonged to Melissa Richmond, according to the Crown's statement.

The Crown will not be accepting the defence's claim that Howard Richmond's PTSD rendered him not criminally responsible for his wife's death, according to the statement.

Daughter was unhappy, mother testifies

Melissa Richmond's mother testified Wednesday, on the second day of the trial, that her daughter was unhappy with her marriage and was considering separation.

Millie Evans said her daughter was more like a roommate than a wife to the man she married.

Evans also said Howard Richmond did not call her to report her daughter was missing. She said Ontario Provincial Police called to give her the news on July 26.

The judge and jury trial, in its second day, is expected to last five weeks.

Not criminally responsible, defence argues

Howard Richmond's lawyer has argued he is not criminally responsible because he was suffering from PTSD.

His lawyer told the court he could not form an intent to kill because he lost his sense of reality on the night of the killing. The defence has also said he did not recall killing his wife until months afterward.

Prior to his arrest, he told CBC News in an interview his wife was his "rock" as he went through treatment for PTSD.

Howard Richmond has completed six tours of duty for the Canadian Armed Forces; three in Afghanistan, two in Bosnia and one in Cyprus.

He remains a Warrant Officer employed as a geomatics technician during the course of his trial, the Department of National Defence told CBC News. He was not wearing a uniform in court.

With files from Laurie Fagan and Louis Blouin