Nicholas Butcher found guilty of second-degree murder of Kristin Johnston

Nicholas Butcher has been found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of his girlfriend, Kristin Johnston, who was found stabbed to death in her Purcells Cove-area home in March 2016.

Butcher automatically gets life sentence and a hearing on July 20 will determine when he can apply for parole

Nicholas Butcher will automatically get a life sentence. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Nicholas Butcher has been found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of his girlfriend, Kristin Johnston, who was found fatally stabbed in her Purcells Cove-area home in March 2016.

A Nova Scotia Supreme Court jury deliberated Friday afternoon and Saturday morning before delivering its verdict.

Butcher automatically gets a life sentence for second-degree murder, which has a minimum parole ineligibility of ten years but can be longer. Judge Joshua Arnold asked the jurors for their recommendations. Four jurors recommended he serve at least 25 years, three said 20, and others said between 10 and 18 years. 

Butcher's parole ineligibility will be decided at a July 20 sentencing hearing.

'Profound' loss for community

Crown attorney Carla Ball said the murder was a tragic case of domestic violence. (CBC)

Crown attorney Carla Ball said justice was done and that it's been a stressful two years for Johnston's family and her friends. 

"Domestic violence is not something that is unusual, unfortunately. We can say that it's a tragic event for everyone involved," Ball told reporters. "It's a very unfortunate situation, but sadly, it's not uncommon."

She called Johnston a "profound member" of her community and an entrepreneur. 

"In this case the evidence was very clear that Mr. Butcher was responsible. He put forward a defence and it was rejected and we have faith in that outcome," she said. 

The verdict comes after a three-week trial in which a disturbing sequence of events was presented before the court, including Butcher's 911 call stating he had killed Johnston and then cut off his own hand with a power saw.

Appeal unlikely

Defence lawyer Peter Planetta said the case against Butcher was strong. (CBC)

Defence lawyer Peter Planetta said the case against Butcher was strong. 

"He was just convicted and he gave evidence and testified that he wasn't guilty, so it's not the outcome he was hoping for, and he's probably reacting in accordance with that," he said. 

Planetta said the issues in the trial were "fairly narrow" and the jury had plenty of time to consider them. "I think five hours — probably a lot of thought went into the few issues that there were."

He said they're not thinking about an appeal at this point.

Yoga teacher eyed move to B.C.

Kristin Johnston, 32, was killed in March 2016 at her Purcells Cove home. (Facebook)

Friends of Johnston, a 32-year-old yoga instructor from Montreal, testified that after her yoga business in Halifax failed and closed in February 2016, she talked about breaking up with Butcher and moving to be with family in B.C. 

The jury also heard that hours before Johnston was killed, Butcher showed up at a Halifax apartment where she was spending the night with another man.

Butcher, 36, who graduated from Dalhousie University's law school in 2015, had testified Johnston attacked him with a knife in his sleep and that he fought back and stabbed her, only realizing it was Johnston after he turned on the light.

He said he then tried to take his own life by stabbing himself as well as severing his hand, which was later reattached.

Ball had argued that Johnston's death was "obviously murder and it wasn't self-defence."

The Crown attorney said Butcher attacked Johnston before stabbing himself in the neck with the same knife in an attempt to kill himself.

She urged the jury to reject the defence's suggestion that a 137-pound woman would have the strength to attack Butcher and leave 13 stab wounds in a "nice tight pattern."

She added that while Johnston's hands had what appeared to be defensive injuries, there were no such defensive injuries on Butcher's hands.

with files from Blair Rhodes and Jon Tattrie