Nova Scotia

Christopher Garnier's father, girlfriend plead for leniency in murder sentencing

Documents surrounding the murder trial of Christopher Garnier are now a matter of public record, and include letters from Garnier’s father and girlfriend appealing for leniency.
Christopher Garnier heads to court with his girlfriend, Brittany Francis, in December. (Peter Dawson/Radio-Canada)

Newly released documents related to the murder trial of Christopher Garnier include letters from the convicted killer's father and girlfriend appealing for leniency in the case.

While the final sentencing arguments failed to go ahead as scheduled on Monday, the documents surrounding the murder case, including written submissions from both the Crown and defence, are now a matter of public record.

Garnier was convicted of second-degree murder by a jury on Dec. 21, 2017. He was found guilty of killing Catherine Campbell, an off-duty Truro police officer, on Sept. 11, 2015.

After he killed her, Garnier placed Campbell's body in a green compost bin, wheeled her remains through the streets of Halifax, and dumped her body down a slope under the approaches to the Angus L. Macdonald Bridge.

Police discovered Campbell's body on Sept. 15, four days after she was dumped under the bridge. Garnier was arrested on Sept. 16. 

'Very proud of him'

"I was, and still am, so very proud of him. With the utmost sincerity, Chris was, and is, my life," wrote Garnier's father, Vince Garnier, in a letter to Justice Josh Arnold, who presided over Garnier's trial and parole eligibility hearing.

"The tremendously tragic event on September 16, 2015, caused Chris to developed post-traumatic stress disorder, consequences of which have caused him to have night terrors, flashbacks, difficult sleeping, hypervigilance and more," Vince Garnier wrote.

Christopher Garnier's common law spouse also wrote to Arnold.

"I consider myself incredibly lucky to call Christopher my significant other," Brittany Francis wrote in her letter to the judge. "He truly is the best kind of person inside and out. He has saved me from me and given me something to look forward to for the future — our future."

Joel Pink, lawyer for Christopher Garnier, talks with Garnier's girlfriend, Brittany Francis, at Nova Scotia Supreme Court. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

The Crown read Francis's letter to the court on Monday and countered it with text messages she exchanged with Garnier around the time of the murder.

"What you did was inexcusable and I need to figure out if it's something I'm willing to carry with me," she texted at one point.

Francis told court on Monday that the texts didn't tell the full picture. She testified that she was angry with Garnier because he lied about smoking marijuana.

In a later text, Francis wrote, "I am having a really hard time with the lies and the cheating.… I don't trust you chris. And this is not a way to be in a relationship."

Francis testified that Garnier was never physically violent with her and the only lie he told her was about the marijuana. She told court she didn't consider his failure to talk about Campbell's murder before his arrest to be a lie.

Sentencing recommendations

The Crown is recommending that Garnier serve a minimum of 16 years in prison before he can begin applying for parole. That sentence would be for both the murder and the separate offence of improperly interfering with human remains.

The Crown compared what Garnier did to the Nova Scotia case of Jason MacRae, who murdered his wife, school teacher Paula Gallant, and concealed her body in the trunk of her car. The Crown also cited the case of Paul Calnen, who murdered his girlfriend Reita Jordan and burned her body.

The defence said Garnier should only serve 10 years for both offences.

Christopher Garnier was found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Catherine Campbell. (CBC)

In his letter to the judge, Vince Garnier asked if his son could be sent to a medium- or minimum-security prison, arguing he wouldn't get the help he needs for his post-traumatic stress disorder at a maximum-security facility.

"Your Lordship, Chris and our family think about Catherine and her family daily," Vince Garnier wrote. "When Chris says (repeatedly) to us that he would gladly give his life to have her back with her family, I know that he is truly sincere."

Victim impact statements, expert testimony from two defence witnesses who have examined Garnier and sentencing arguments will all be presented when the case returns to court for two days at the end of August.

About the Author

Blair Rhodes

Reporter

Blair Rhodes has been a journalist for more than 35 years, the last 27 with CBC. His primary focus is on stories of crime and public safety. He can be reached at blair.rhodes@cbc.ca