Halifax medical student William Sandeson has been found guilty of first-degree murder in the death of 22-year-old Taylor Samson.
Sandeson was charged two years ago with the murder of Samson, a fellow Dalhousie University student whose body has never been found.
The jury deliberated for a total of 22 hours before the verdict came down at about noon Sunday. People in the gallery cheered after the decision was announced.
The trial heard Samson was last seen alive on video walking into Sandeson’s apartment shortly before 10:30 p.m. on Aug. 15, 2015.
Court heard Samson went to Sandeson’s apartment to sell him nine kilograms of marijuana for $40,000.
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 he allegedly murdered Samson. 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,” said McOnie, asking the jury to find Sandeson guilty of first-degree murder.
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.
Defence lawyer Eugene Tan said in his closing arguments that Sandeson is not a “criminal mastermind” and that the Crown twisted evidence in the case to fit its theory.
Tan had conceded there was a “violent incident” at the apartment that night, but said Sandeson maintains there was a third party at the apartment.
Tan had asked the jury to acquit Sandeson.