Kyllan Ellis guilty of 2nd-degree murder of Simone Sanderson

Kyllan Ellis has been found guilty of second-degree murder in the 2012 death of Simone Sanderson.

Jury began deliberations on Tuesday afternoon

Kyllan Ellis was arrested in April 2016 and charged with second-degree murder. (CBC)

A Winnipeg jury has found Kyllan Ellis guilty of second-degree murder in the 2012 death of Simone Sanderson.

The 23-year-old's body was found in an empty lot at the corner of Main Street and Burrows Avenue on Sept.  2, 2012. She was last seen on Aug. 26 of that year. 

Ellis, 30, was arrested and charged in April 2016.

The jury of five women and seven men began deliberating Tuesday afternoon. Around seven hours later, they announced that they'd reached a verdict. 

Both Sanderson's family and Ellis's mother cried as it was read out in court. 

Second-degree murder carries a life sentence. But Ellis's parole eligibility is yet to be determined. 

Justice Chris Martin asked jurors to make recommendations on Ellis's parole eligibility and several of them did. Some suggested 10 years, while five jurors said 25 years, the maximum for second-degree murder. 

Kyllan Ellis guilty of 2nd-degree murder of Simone Sanderson

5 years ago
Duration 1:29
A jury has found Kyllan Ellis guilty of second degree murder in the 2012 death of Simone Sanderson. The verdict came in Tuesday night after seven hours of deliberations.

Sanderson's family is expected to give victim impact statements at the sentencing, said Crown lawyer Brent Davidson.

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak spokesperson Michael Hutchinson said family members were too emotional to speak after the verdict. 

"The family is very brave," he said on the courthouse steps. "From what I've seen they've dealt with this for a long time, it's a very tragic happening and a very emotional moment. They're going to go home and recuperate."

Defence lawyer Mike Cook says Ellis's family will provide statements at sentencing as well. 

The trial, which began on May 14, heard from 12 witnesses ranging from police investigators to an entomologist to Ellis's parents.

Carol Ellis testified her son called her in the middle of the night on Aug. 27, 2012, asking for a ride because he had lost his keys. She said she picked him up from around Redwood Avenue and Main Street, which is not far from where Sanderson's body was found.

An entomologist studied the maggots found on Sanderson's body and told the jury she believed the 23-year-old was dead by sunrise on Aug. 27. Court heard her cause of death was blunt and sharp force trauma. 

The jury saw surveillance video of Ellis walking on Magnus Avenue and Main Street at around 1:30 in the morning, which is one block south of the empty lot where the Crown said Sanderson was killed.

Carol testified her son told her that night he had picked up a girl who identified herself as a prostitute and drove to a location she suggested, where she stole his keys. She said her son told her he was then jumped by a man and became involved in some sort of two-on-one altercation, when he choked the girl.

John Ellis testified his son confessed to him in their Lorette living room that he thought he may have killed someone.

Police testified Ellis first came onto their radar in 2014 through an anonymous Crime Stoppers tip. It was later revealed in court that the tip came from his mother's former boyfriend. 
Simone Sanderson's body was found under a piece of cardboard on Sept. 2, 2012 in an empty lot at the corner of Burrows Avenue and Main Street in Winnipeg. She was last seen on Aug. 26. (Family photo)

In April 2016, Winnipeg police released new information in Sanderson's case. Sgt. Wes Rommel told the court the press conference was a tactic to get Ellis talking because police had installed listening devices in his car, his mother's house in Winnipeg and his father's house in Lorette.

A recorded conversation between Ellis and his mother was played for the jury and Carol was heard saying "I'm trying to protect you," and "I know what you did." Ellis was heard saying he didn't know what his mother was talking about.

At one point in the recording, she asked if he had returned to the site, to which he answered no. The Crown said this was evidence of a confession.

Cook said the recording was not a confession, but a statement of denial.

He told the jury to consider self-defence, referencing the mother's testimony, when making their decision on whether or not his client should be found guilty.

Ellis's DNA and fingerprints were not found on any of the 43 pieces of evidence collected from where Sanderson's body was found. There were no eyewitnesses in the case to say they saw Ellis in the lot or with Sanderson. There was no surveillance video of the two together. 


Jillian Taylor

CBC Reporter

Jillian Taylor has been with CBC Manitoba since 2012 and has been working as a journalist for nearly 15 years. She was born and raised in Manitoba and is a member of the Fisher River Cree Nation. In 2014, she was awarded the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association's travel bursary, which took her to Australia to work with Indigenous journalists. Find her on Twitter: @JillianLTaylor