A jury found Calvin Maynard Sparks and Samanda Rose Ritch guilty Saturday of first-degree murder in the June 2017 stabbing death of Nadia Gonzales.
The decision brought some measure of closure to the victim's parents, Irene and Ray Gonzales, who attended every session in the six-week trial in Nova Scotia Supreme Court.
"We just feel it went as well as it could and we're pleased with the outcome," Ray Gonzales said after the verdict was delivered. "Nothing can bring our daughter back, but to the extent of the law, it's as much as we could hope for."
Irene Gonzales thanked the jury, as well as Crown attorneys Rob Kennedy and Steve Degen for the work they did.
"We swore from the very beginning that we would get our justice," she said. "We feel that that's what we had to do to support her along the way."
Nadia Gonzales and John Patterson were attacked in the hallway outside apartment 16 at 33 Hastings Dr. in Dartmouth on the night of June 16, 2017.
Gonzales, a 35-year-old mother of two from Hammonds Plains, was stabbed about 40 times and her body placed in a hockey bag that was found on the landing of a stairwell in the building. Patterson escaped from the building after suffering six stab wounds and collapsed on the lawn of a school across the street.
Police arrested Ritch and Sparks the next morning in Halifax.
On Saturday, Sparks, 26, of Dartmouth, and Ritch, 22, of Halifax, were both found not guilty of attempting to murder Patterson, but the jury of eight men and four women decided Sparks was guilty of assault causing bodily harm to the man. Ritch was acquitted of the latter charge.
A first-degree murder conviction carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. Sparks and Ritch have been in custody for about 2.5 years already.
Justice Christa Brothers must also consider a sentence for Sparks's conviction for assault causing bodily harm. The maximum sentence for that offence is 10 years, but any term imposed will be served concurrently to the life sentence.
A sentencing hearing is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 24.
During the trial, which started Nov. 4, Patterson testified that he and Gonzales went to the apartment to deliver crack cocaine to Wayne (Batman) Bruce. They were in the hallway with another man when Sparks and Ritch attacked them, he told the court.
In his closing arguments earlier this week, Kennedy said that the motive for the slaying was Sparks's jealousy over Gonzales's financial success as a drug dealer, coupled with a belief she was an informant and that she had called him a rat.
The jury began deliberations Thursday afternoon and spent most of Friday hearing all of Patterson's testimony over again from the court recordings. They came to their conclusions within about an hour and a half of the resumption of deliberations Saturday morning.
After the decision, Kennedy said it was a good day for justice but a sad day at the same time.
"We have two young people that are being sent away for life sentences," the prosecutor said. "We take no satisfaction from that ... however, the victim's family has been through a lot. This has been two and a half years of turmoil. They've maintained their patience throughout. They've been here every single day, every single appearance, and I know that they feel very, very confident about the result."
He said the jury clearly "had a lot of faith" in Patterson's testimony about what happened in the hallway of the apartment building where Gonzales died.
"They believed what he said," Kennedy said. "They saw him as an honest and straightforward witness. His evidence alone, in our opinion, established that these two individuals committed the offence of first-degree murder."
Along with the testimony of 39 witnesses, evidence included DNA recovered that matched Sparks and Ritch, both of whom had cuts on their hands when they were arrested. The Crown tendered almost 60 exhibits in the course of the trial.
Neither Peter Planetta, who represented Ritch, nor Malcolm Jeffcock, who defended Sparks, chose to comment after Saturday's verdicts.
With files from Steve Bruce