Edmonton man convicted in pregnant wife's stabbing death

An Edmonton jury has found Michael White guilty of second-degree murder in the stabbing death of his wife Liana White, who was four months pregnant.
An Edmonton jury found Michael White guilty of second-degree murder Thursday in the stabbing death of his pregnant wife.
A man white a bald head and a goatee.
Michael White was found guilty of second-degree murder and offering an indignity to a human body. (CBC)

A gasp was heard in the courtroom when the verdict was read.

White raised his head toward the ceiling, looking like he was going to cry. He then put his hands over his face and looked down, breathing heavily.

His parents held hands but offered little visible reaction to their son.

As he was being led away, his mother went to him and clasped her arms around his neck, breaking down in tears.

White whispered in her ear: "It's OK, it'll be OK."

The jury recommended White serve at least 15 years in prison before he is eligible for parole.

Liana White, 29, was four months pregnant with the couple's second child when she was murdered.

Outside court, her mother, Maureen Kelly, expressed relief that her son-in-law had been convicted, but said she would give anything to have her daughter back.

"I felt justice was served today," she said.

"I'm sad we're doing this in the first place. I'm sad that my daughter's gone and Ashley's mom is gone and because of his mistake, his life is ruined," she said. "Makes me very sad, everything about this is sad."

Kelly has custody of the White's daughter Ashley, who she said is trying to understand what has happened to her family.

Kelly, who believed the girl witnessed what happened the night of Liana's murder, said she tells the young girl her mother is in a safe place and that her dad is as well, and that he's learning how to be safe.

Liana vanished on July 12, 2005 on her way to work as a medical clerk at the Royal Alexandra Hospital.

Her Ford Explorer was found abandoned in a parking lot about two kilometres from her home.

Her husband, a mechanic, made an emotional public plea for her safe return.

He organized a search team that found her naked body in a ditch on Edmonton's northern outskirts five days after she went missing.

White was charged with second-degree murder the next day.

10 hours of deliberation

The seven-man, five-woman jury was sequestered while reaching a verdict.The members began deliberations at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday and wrapped up exactly 24 hours later.

The jury spent about 10 of those hours deliberating, also finding White guilty on a charge of offering an indignity toa human body.

A sentencing hearing will begin Wednesday.

Second-degree murder carries a minimum sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for at least 10 years.

The judge is not bound by the jury's recommendation of 15 years before parole.

White faked a robbery: Crown

Crown prosecutor Troy Coulliard had told the jury that White killed his wife in their home, cleaned up the blood and then abandoned her naked body in a ditch on the city's northern outskirts.

Liana White was pregnant with the couple's second child when she was killed. (CBC)
Coulliard said White hid garbage bags full of bloody refuse in a field and stashed her vehicle in the parking lot, strewing her belongings around it in an effort to simulate a robbery.

White retrieved the garbage bags when he learned searchers were headed that way, said Coulliard.

White originally told police he didn't recognize the contents of the bags.

In court, however, he acknowledged that the bags contained clothes belonging to both of them as well as a lamp from their bedside table.

He said the broken lamp and bloody evidence could be explained by a nosebleed his wife had suffered before her disappearance.

Scrapes and bruises on Liana's body suggested she had been dragged across a carpet and down a flight of stairs.

Defence: too many questions

White's defence lawyer told the jury the case did not add up and left too many unanswered questions.

Lawyer Laura Stevens argued that police began shutting doors on the investigation soon after Liana White went missing because police assumed Michael White was the killer.

Stevens told the jury forensic evidence couldn't pinpoint the time, place or cause of her death.

With files from the Canadian Press