Jury finds pair guilty of 1st-degree murder in stabbing death of Nadia Gonzales
Calvin Joel Sparks, Samanda Rose Ritch were accused of stabbing woman, stuffing her body in hockey bag
A jury has found Calvin Joel Sparks, 26, and Samanda Rose Ritch, 22, guilty of first-degree murder in the 2017 stabbing death of Nadia Gonzales, whose body was found in a black hockey bag in a Dartmouth apartment.
Sparks and Ritch were found not guilty of the attempted murder of John Patterson, 72, who was with Gonzales on the evening of June 16, 2017, when they were attacked in a hallway at 33 Hastings Dr.
Patterson suffered six stab wounds during the incident. He eventually fled the building and collapsed on the lawn of an elementary school across the street.
Sparks was found guilty of unlawfully causing bodily harm in relation to Patterson's injuries, while Ritch was found not guilty of the charge.
Parents Irene and Ray Gonzales thanked the jury for its verdict.
"We're pleased with the outcome," said Ray Gonzales. "Nothing is going to bring our daughter back, but, to the extent of the law, that's as much as we could hope for."
They described their daughter, a former paralegal and office administrator, as a good person and a wonderful daughter and mother.
"She allowed someone into her life that destroyed her … she made some bad choices, but that was a small segment of her life," Ray Gonzales said.
Crown attorney Robert Kennedy called the verdict "a good day for justice," but also said it was a sad day.
"We have two young people that are being sent away and sent away for life sentences and we take no satisfaction from that. But, however, the victim's family has been through a lot. This has been two-and-a-half years of turmoil."
The verdict came Saturday after a six-week trial in Nova Scotia Supreme Court. During the trial, the jury heard that Sparks and Gonzales, a 35-year-old mother of two, were involved in a drug-dealing business relationship that had soured.
Kennedy showed texts between the two that indicated their suspicion of each other and their concerns that the other was "a rat."
"In that world, rats are not tolerated," Kennedy told the jury in his closing argument.
He outlined the Crown's theory that Sparks put together a plan to kill Gonzales and enlisted his former girlfriend, Ritch, to assist.
During the trial, Patterson testified Gonzales was a known dealer of crack cocaine.
Witness credibility questioned
Patterson said both Sparks and Ritch took part in the attack but his credibility was challenged by the defence because of his admitted criminal record and crack cocaine addiction.
Sparks's DNA was found on a nearby fence and bush, and a knife with DNA from Sparks and Gonzales was found in one of the yards near the stabbing scene. DNA from Ritch was also found on Gonzales's fingernails.
The penalty for first-degree murder in Canada is an automatic life sentence.
Because both Sparks and Ritch have been jailed since their arrest about 2½ years ago, they will receive credit for that time when sentenced, Kennedy said.