Courts

Garnier takes the stand at his murder trial

Catherine Campbell asked to be choked, Garnier tells jury

Christopher Garnier and his girlfriend Brittany Francis leave the courtroom Monday.   Taryn Grant

Christopher Calvin Garnier told a jury Monday he couldn’t remember what happened to Catherine Campbell in the days after he choked her and she took her last breaths.

Garnier, 30, testified in his own second degree murder trial as the defence began to present its case in Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax.

The Crown alleges that Garnier choked Campbell to death on Sept. 11, 2015. The body of the off-duty Truro police officer was found under the Macdonald bridge in Halifax on Sept. 16, 2015.

Guided by his lawyer, Joel Pink, Garnier gave his account of what happened on Sept. 10 and 11, 2015.

Garnier told the jury he met Campbell, 36, at the Halifax Alehouse, where the two danced and kissed. He said he knows they went to 5714 McCully St. together, though his memory of the cab ride is unclear.

Once inside the McCully Street apartment, Garnier said Campbell asked him if he was into domination.

“She asked me to choke her,” Garnier told the jury.

He said he was uncomfortable having his hands around her neck.

“If she ever resisted, I would have stopped,” Garnier said.

Pink asked Garnier to re-enact for the jury exactly what happened in the final moments that Campbell was alive. Garnier climbed onto a table in the courtroom as if it were the pull-out mattress where Garnier said Campbell died.

A blood stain inside the apartment at 5714 McCully St. was determined to be Campbell’s DNA.   Court exhibit

He said he rested an elbow on the mattress and used his forearm to choke Campbell across the left side of her neck. He said he slapped her three times, at her request. He wasn’t looking at her face, he said, and only realized she was bleeding when he felt his arm getting wet and warm with blood.

‘Blaming’

On cross-examination, Crown attorney Christine Driscoll asked why Garnier didn’t tell police that Campbell asked to be choked.

Garnier said he didn’t want to get “on the bad side” of Cpl. Joseph Allison, who interrogated him for nine hours and 24 minutes on Sept. 16, 2015.

“I didn’t want to seem like I was blaming her,” Garnier said.

“You’re blaming Campbell today, aren’t you?” Driscoll replied.

There was a small gas canister in the trunk of the vehicle Garnier was driving when arrested, according to earlier testimony in the trial. Driscoll asked Garnier if he thought about burning Campbell’s body with that gas. When Garnier said that was not his plan, she reminded him that he had told Allison he’d thought about it.

“That was never gonna happen,” Garnier said in court.

A photo of the inside of the white Ford Edge Garnier was driving before his arrest.   Court exhibit

He told Driscoll that he hadn’t actually thought of burning Campbell’s body until he was questioned about it during the interrogation.

‘Wasn’t sure’

In his testimony, Garnier said he drove by the location of Campbell’s body at least a dozen times in the days between her death and his arrest. He said he had a sick feeling that something bad had happened.

“At that point I wasn’t sure what happened. I wasn’t sure she was dead,” he told the jury.

Garnier said his memory was patchy after hearing Campbell take her last breaths. He said he remembered folding the mattress from the pull-out couch through a door, and looking up at a bridge. He said the next thing he remembered was his friend Mitchell Devoe, who lived at 5714 McCully St., waking him up the next morning.

Garnier has pleaded not guilty to second degree murder and improper interference with human remains.

The trial, which entered its fourth week on Monday, is set to continue this week.