CALGARY — Loved ones of a Calgary woman brutally killed in Feburary 2015 sobbed and held each other after a jury found Curtis Healy guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Dawns Baptiste.
"I'm still shaking," cousin Verlyn Baptiste said outside court Friday.
"I'm just so glad that this is finally over and that we can all move on and we can begin to heal as a family because this has affected our family so deeply."
Healy, 29, slouched in his seat after the verdict was read. A first-degree murder conviction carries a life sentence.
Several of Baptiste's loved ones were in the gallery, many wearing T-shirts with a photo of the smiling pink-haired, bespectacled woman.
The jury heard Healy and Baptiste met on a light-rail transit train while she was on her way to stay at a friend's house.
After they'd exited the train early on Feb. 11, 2015 , Baptiste told Healy to leave her alone. The rejection enraged him and he stomped on her head, hit her with a liquor bottle and dragged her into a stranger's back yard.
He then raped the unconscious or semi-unconscious woman and struck her head with a large rock. Healy told a detective he had done so to "finish her off" in a video statement shown to jurors.
Baptiste's remains were found facedown the next day, her lower body exposed.
In addition to the police confession, the Crown had DNA evidence showing blood on Healy's shoes was a match for Baptiste and that semen found on Baptiste was a match for Healy's.
The Crown argued it was first-degree murder because the killing, sexual assault and unlawful confinement happened together.
The defence asked the jury to convict Healy of second-degree murder because the sequence of events was unclear.
Jury deliberations were paused for several hours on Friday after it was revealed that jurors had drinks the previous night in their hotel's restaurant, where televisions were switched on and other patrons were present.
Jurors are not to access the internet, read the news or interact with other members of the public while they are sequestered.
Healy's lawyer asked for a mistrial but Queen's Bench Justice Charlene Anderson denied the request.
They came back with a verdict about an hour after they were told to resume.
Baptiste, who was 31, had four children, who are now aged five to 13.
Baptiste's brother Alex, who testified about the last time he saw his sister alive, said the verdict shows families of other missing and murdered Indigenous women shouldn't give up hope. The Baptistes are members of the Samson Cree Nation south of Edmonton.
"Don't let go. Believe that the justice system would ... protect all the women," he said.
Healy is to be sentenced on Monday, when loved ones will read victim impact statements.
Cousin Louise Baptiste said the verdict was a big relief.
"I'm so thankful. It has been three and a half years coming, a long three and a half years."
Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press