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Second defence lawyer grills key witness at Halifax murder trial

Crown witness John Patterson leaves Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax on Wednesday during a break at a pair’s trial on a charge of murdering Nadia Gonzales in June 2017. - STEVE BRUCE
Crown witness John Patterson leaves Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax on Wednesday during a break at the trial of two people charged with murdering Nadia Gonzales in June 2017. - Steve Bruce

Wednesday turned into another long day on the stand for a key Crown witness at the trial of two people accused of stabbing a woman to death at a Dartmouth apartment building in June 2017.

Samanda Rose Ritch, 22, of Halifax and Calvin Maynard Sparks, 26, of Dartmouth are charged with first-degree murder in the death of Nadia Gonzales and attempting to murder John Patterson.

Gonzales, a 35-year-old mother of two from Hammonds Plains, was stabbed 37 times in the hallway of a building at 33 Hastings Dr. on the night of June 16 and put into a hockey bag.

A man called 911 after Patterson, who suffered six stab wounds in the incident, went outside and collapsed on a lawn.

Patterson, 72, began testifying last week in Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax. He said he started smoking crack at age 58 but hasn't used it for about a month.

The Hants County senior told the jury he had known Gonzales for about five months after meeting her at a New Year’s Eve party and would accompany her when she delivered crack cocaine. 

On the evening of June 16, Patterson said he, Gonzales and a man named Mike went to the Hastings Drive building to make a delivery for Wayne (Batman) Bruce, who lived there.

Patterson said Gonzales knocked on Bruce’s door and, after a minute or two, Sparks came out of the apartment “like a leopard” and hit her on the left side of the head, knocking her down.

He said Sparks got on top of Gonzales and attacked her with what appeared to be a knife. He said he grabbed Sparks by the small of his back and tried to pull him off her.

Patterson said he blacked out and the next thing he remembers is feeling pain and seeing blood spurting out of his left arm like a fountain.

A few seconds after Sparks began stabbing Gonzales, Patterson said Ritch came out of the apartment and joined in the attack.

In his opening statement last week, Crown attorney Steve Degen said the jury will hear evidence that Ritch told an undercover police officer that her ex had killed Gonzales. Ritch allegedly told the officer that they had gone through Gonzales’ phone and found text messages to the cops that showed she was “snitching hard-core.”

Peter Planetta, Ritch’s lawyer, cross-examined Patterson on Tuesday.

Malcolm Jeffcock, Sparks’ counsel, had his turn Wednesday, which was Patterson’s fourth day in the witness box.

Patterson told Jeffcock he didn’t know where the crack that he and Gonzales distributed came from. He said she and Sparks looked after the acquisition of the drugs.

He said he didn’t know if Gonzales had changed to a new source. “I was told that the source had to be changed,” he said. “I was not told from whom to whom, but that a change had to be made.”

When Jeffcock suggested there were men who were jealous of Gonzales’ business and wanted to shut her down, Patterson replied: “I would say so.”

Jeffcock addressed various differences between what Patterson told police in the aftermath of the homicide and what he has said at trial.

Patterson testified earlier that Sparks had told him he planned to chop Gonzales up and pu t her in a garbage bag.

But Patterson agreed Wednesday that in a statement to police on the night of the killing, he said a woman had told him that.

Jeffcock also challenged Patterson’s testimony that he confronted Sparks about his intention the night before the killing. The lawyer suggested the men actually talked about Sparks being tired of two other men, Jacob Sparks and Frankie Tynes, interfering in their business and trying to run everything.

Patterson admitted he believed Sparks was tired of the situation, “but I’m not sure of our conversation concerning that.”

Although Patterson told police he had been chased and beaten up by Jacob Sparks and Tynes in the past, he insisted Wednesday that never happened, saying it was a “correction I must make right now.”

Patterson agreed that Jacob Sparks and Tynes were upset with the success Gonzales was having dealing drugs.
 
Jeffcock asked if people sometimes lie because they are afraid of being labelled a rat.

“Yes, everybody,” Patterson responded. “If you open your mouth one too many times, you get a bullet, or you get your head beat off and you’re dead.”

When Jeffcock brought up the term again a few minutes later, Patterson said: “Many in the community of Halifax and Dartmouth are calling me a rat. Many are not calling me a rat, because I’m standing for something.”

Patterson will be back on the stand Thursday for redirect questioning by the prosecution.

The trial got underway last week and is scheduled for 19 days. A jury of nine men and four women is hearing the case, with Justice Christa Brothers presiding.
 

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