Nadia Gonzales was stabbed 37 times and stuffed into a hockey bag, a Crown attorney said Wednesday in his opening statement at the Halifax trial of two people charged in the June 2017 killing of the Hammonds Plains woman.
Samanda Rose Ritch, 22, of Halifax and Calvin Maynard Sparks, 26, of Dartmouth are on trial in Nova Scotia Supreme Court on charges of first-degree murder and attempting to murder a man named John Patterson.
In his opening remarks to the jury, Steve Degen outlined the Crown’s case against Ritch and Sparks.
Degen alerted jurors that they will see and hear evidence that will be graphic and upsetting.
He said he and colleague Rob Kennedy plan to call witnesses to testify about what happened at an apartment building at 33 Hastings Dr. in Dartmouth on the night of June 16, 2017, and why.
The jury will hear that Gonzales and Sparks were involved in the drug trade together and evidence about the decline of that relationship, Degen said.
A 911 call was placed at 7:42 p.m. on June 16 after Patterson was discovered injured near a schoolyard across the street from the apartment building.
Police entered the apartment building and discovered a black hockey bag on a landing between the third and fourth floor, Degen said.
The bag was almost completely zipped up but there was some dark hair poking out, the prosecutor said.
It was difficult to determine what was inside the bag, he said.
Paramedics arrived and opened the hockey bag, revealing the body of Gonzales, a 35-year-old mother of two.
A paramedic partly checked for signs of life but Gonzales was quickly pronounced deceased.
The bag also contained a blue tarp, Degen said, and a broken knife.
A man who lived across the street told police that a male and female had cut through his yard and gone over or around his fence and onto the property of 43 Hastings St.
A police K9 unit began a track in the man’s yard and discovered an orange-handled knife on the ground at 43 Hastings Dr. The knife was near a hedge that appeared to have been disturbed.
Arrests and evidence
Degen said the evidence will show that Gonzales’ blood DNA was on the knife and Sparks’ blood DNA was found on the knife, on the fence and on the grass near where the knife was located.
Based on information provided by Patterson, Wayne Bruce and Marion Graves, police identified the suspects as Sparks and Ritch.
Ritch was arrested the next morning at about 6 o’clock at an address on Federal Avenue in Halifax. She allegedly had a sharp-force injury to her left ring finger that was bandaged.
Sparks was not immediately arrested, despite being advised to surrender. He was apprehended at about 8:47 a.m. on the back stairs of a neighbouring address. He allegedly had a sharp-force injury to his right pinky and ring fingers, which were also wrapped in bandages.
An autopsy was performed June 17. Dr. Matthew Bowes, the chief medical examiner, noted 37 stab wounds on Gonzales’ body, four of which appeared to have happened around or after her time of death.
After she was arrested, Ritch gave information to an undercover police officer who was in a cell next to her at the police station, Degen told the jury.
Ritch allegedly told the officer that her ex had stabbed a girl more than 30 times and put her in a duffel bag.
'Snitching' to police
She stated that the deceased had left her phone in a vehicle and that they had gone through the phone and found text messages to the police.
“She was snitching hard-core,” Ritch allegedly told the undercover officer.
Ritch said she didn’t stab the victim but helped put her in the bag. That’s how her face got scratched, she said.
She also said she had been stabbed in the left ring finger during the incident.
Ritch told the undercover officer that the plan was to put the duffel bag containing the body in a storage unit downstairs.
She allegedly said, “The cops don’t know this, but a hole had been dug.”
Degen said the jury will hear evidence from Patterson, who was an eyewitness to what happened on the night of June 16 and was also attacked during the incident. Patterson is expected to testify that Sparks told him he wanted to kill Gonzales and had already dug a grave.
Bruce lived in Unit 16 at 33 Hastings Dr. His evidence will show that Sparks and Ritch brought a large black bag to his residence on the night of the killing and put on gloves and armed themselves with knives when it became clear that Gonzales would be arriving soon.
The prosecutor said the jury will also hear phone conversations Sparks was involved in while he was in custody at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Burnside.
Degen said some of the Crown’s main witnesses have struggled with drug addiction for many years and some have criminal records.
A jury of nine men and five women is hearing the case, with Justice Christa Brothers presiding.
The Crown called its first two witnesses Wednesday after the jury heard opening statements from defence lawyers Peter Planetta, who represents Ritch, and Malcolm Jeffcock.
The trial is scheduled to sit for 19 days.