HALIFAX – The mother of a slain university student says she’ll keep searching for her son’s body, with or without the help of his killer.
William Sandeson, a Halifax medical student, was found guilty Sunday of first-degree murder in the death of 22-year-old Taylor Samson.
Sandeson was charged two years ago in the slaying of Samson, a fellow Dalhousie University student whose body has never been found.
There were tears and cheers from members of Samson’s family when the decision was announced after 22 hours of jury deliberation. Sandeson, 24, remained stonefaced as the jury of six men and six women was polled to affirm their agreement with the verdict.
“Turn around and take a bow, Billy,” Samson’s mother, Linda Boutilier, yelled as Sandeson was escorted out of the courtroom.
“Tell us where he is,” another voice shouted from the gallery.
Now that the trial is over, Boutilier said she can concentrate on recovering her son’s remains.
“I want my son back,” she said. “If he (Sandeson) doesn’t want to help us, then fine. I’ll find him on my own. I’m not going to stop looking for Taylor. I’m bringing him home.”
The trial heard Samson went to Sandeson’s apartment on Aug. 15, 2015, to sell him nine kilograms of marijuana for $40,000.
Court heard Samson was last seen alive on video walking into Sandeson’s apartment shortly before 10:30 p.m.
Outside court, Boutilier said she would sleep soundly for the first time since her son went missing 22 months ago.
“(Sandeson) doesn’t care about his family, my family, Taylor,” said Boutilier. “It’s like, you’re the one who wanted this whole trial. You wouldn’t take a plea bargain, so turn around. Take a bow.”
Boutilier and Taylor’s grandmother, Elizabeth Samson, expressed sympathy for Sandeson’s family, casting them as fellow victims.
“I do feel sorry for his family that they brought up a man like him,” Elizabeth Samson said, her voice quivering with emotion. “I would be heartbroken.”
Defence lawyer Eugene Tan said Sandeson had asked his family not to be in the courtroom when the verdict came down.
Tan, who has described himself as Sandeson’s former coach and family friend, said he was disappointed by trial’s outcome both on a personal and professional level.
“When you have an emotional connection with a client … it does make everything a little bit harder,” said Tan. “It makes the decisions as to what advice you’re going to give them a little bit harder. And at the end of the day, whatever happens, I think I take it a little more personally.”
Tan said his client is focused on “moving forward,” but wouldn’t say whether an appeal is in the works.
Crown lawyer Susan MacKay said jurors had plenty of evidence to consider over the two-month-long trial — which was disrupted by legal detours and even the threat of a mistrial — but said the hard work of investigators coupled with a few “lucky breaks” ultimately made for a winning case.
In her closing arguments, Crown attorney Kim McOnie suggested Sandeson lured Samson to his apartment and shot him in the back of the head at his kitchen table during the drug deal as part of a scheme to alleviate his debt.
McOnie had argued Sandeson — who was slated to start medical school at Dalhousie within a week of his arrest — was motivated by money, noting he was in debt and that police only recovered roughly $7,200 cash.
The trial heard Sandeson was under pressure from his parents about his spending in the weeks before Samson was killed. Sandeson owed more than $70,000 on a $200,000 line of credit.
McOnie suggested Sandeson never intended to buy the drugs that night — he planned to steal them.
“Taylor Samson had no clue what he was walking into,” McOnie told the court during closing arguments.
DNA matching Samson’s was recovered from a bullet, gun, duffel bag and other items seized from Sandeson’s Henry Street apartment in Halifax and his family’s farm in Truro, the jury heard.
Tan said in his closing arguments that Sandeson was not a “criminal mastermind” and that the Crown twisted evidence in the case to fit its theory.
First-degree murder convictions carry an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years. A formal sentencing hearing has been set for July 11, when victim impact statements will be read.