Nova Scotia

MacRae strangled wife over $700 debt

A Nova Scotia man, Jason Wayne MacRae, has admitted he strangled his wife, elementary teacher Paula Gallant, in 2005 in an argument over a $700 gambling debt.

Sentenced to life in prison, parole eligibility in 15 years

Jason MacRae, seen here at a previous court appearance, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on Wednesday. (CBC)

Latest

  • MacRae will be eligible for parole in 15 years
  • He says he's sorry, not violent person
  • 10 victim impact statements read in court

A Nova Scotia man has admitted he strangled his wife, elementary teacher Paula Gallant, in an argument over a $700 gambling debt.

Jason Wayne MacRae, 37, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax on Wednesday.

He was sentenced to life in prison. Justice Kevin Coady ruled that he would be eligible for parole in 15 years.

"The reality is he is a very dangerous person," Coady told the court. "[The] potential for violence is real."

The details of Gallant's killing were read out in court on Wednesday — five years after the Grade 3 teacher's body was found in the trunk of her car.

On Dec. 27, 2005, MacRae and Gallant were in their basement arguing about a debt on MacRae's VISA card for online gambling, according to an agreed statement of facts.

MacRae grabbed a piece of two-by-four wood and struck his wife on the back of her head. She got up, faced him and said, "What are you doing? Stop."

He strangled her with both hands. Then he wrapped her head and face in Saran Wrap for 20 minutes to make sure she was dead.

Paula Gallant, 36, was found dead in the trunk of her car. ((CBC))
According to the agreed statement of facts, MacRae covered Gallant's body with a sheet, left her in the basement and went upstairs to feed their daughter, who was just shy of her first birthday.

After feeding his daughter, MacRae left her in the highchair and went outside of their home on Silver Maple Drive in Timberlea to check for possible witnesses or neighbours.

He went back inside the home, put a windbreaker and shoes on Gallant's body and slid her out a basement window adjacent to the driveway. MacRae placed her body in the trunk of her car and covered her with a grey blanket taken from an emergency kit in the trunk.

MacRae drove the car to the parking lot outside Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea Elementary School, where Gallant was a Grade 3 teacher. He walked home, ran some errands and reported his wife missing that night.

Gallant's body was found the next day.

Loved ones speak

After the agreed statement of facts was presented to the court, 10 victim impact statements were read.

"How did I get stuck with this cowardly, selfish monster," said Alan Blackburn, Paula's brother-in-law, who was the one to identify Gallant's body.

Jason Wayne MacRae pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on Wednesday. ((Sketch by Duncan Ferguson))
"I will always see Paula's face in the trunk of the car."

Lynn Gallant Blackburn, Paula's sister, said the family wondered about the lack of emotion he showed at the time of Gallant's funeral and his reluctance to stand by his wife's casket at the funeral home.

"He had all the answers and could have ended the suffering. But instead he moved on without any regard for anyone but himself," she said.

"I have to live every day without my sweet baby sister in my life."

MacRae stood up in court and read his own statement, saying, "A beautiful person's life was lost that day."

"I'm truly sorry for all the pain I've caused."

He said he has never been a violent person and he doesn't know what changed that day.

Outside the courtroom, Lynn Gallant Blackburn read a statement on behalf of the family.

"Through this long journey, there have been times when we were not certain this day would come. It is due to the perseverance of many dedicated professionals, as well as the strong support of the community and the media that has led to prosecution," she said.

"It is our hope that today's decision will begin to bring some peace to our families, friends and the community and we can start to move forward with Paula in our hearts."

Family kept case in media

Gallant's death was one of Nova Scotia's most high-profile unsolved homicides. Her family kept the case in the news for years.

The big break came when an undercover officer befriended MacRae in October 2009. The officer claimed to be the head of a crime syndicate who could get MacRae work if he divulged everything about his wife.

Lynn Gallant Blackburn, Paula's sister, read a statement to the media outside the courtroom. ((CBC))
MacRae re-enacted the murder for the undercover officer. He told the officer he thought about killing his wife but didn't think he'd do it.

"Honestly, I had thought about it before. I didn't think I would ever do it. Um, then, yeah. I pretty much knew I was gonna do it when I did it," MacRae said, according to the agreed statement of facts.

MacRae was charged with first-degree murder last August.

Defence lawyer Michael Taylor told the court a different story of what sparked the murder.

He said MacRae told him the couple argued over "minor things," such as work not getting done around the house.