News / Halifax

Taylor Samson's DNA found on gun, bullet at William Sandeson's apartment: Crown

The first-degree murder trial of medical student William Sandeson, accused of killing Taylor Samson, is set for 32 days in court in Halifax.

Crown attorney Susan MacKay arrives for the start of the trial for William Sandeson at Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax on Thursday, April 20, 2017. Sandeson is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Taylor Samson, a fellow Dalhousie University student, who was last seen on Aug. 15, 2015 and whose body has not been found. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Crown attorney Susan MacKay arrives for the start of the trial for William Sandeson at Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax on Thursday, April 20, 2017. Sandeson is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Taylor Samson, a fellow Dalhousie University student, who was last seen on Aug. 15, 2015 and whose body has not been found. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

The jury in the first-degree murder trial for William Sandeson will see evidence that DNA with a profile matching that of Taylor Samson’s was found on a handgun in Sandeson’s apartment, on a bullet in his window casing, and on the marijuana that he was supposed to buy in a “drug deal gone bad,” the Crown said in its opening statement.

Crown attorney Susan MacKay made the statement – none of which has been proven in court – to the jury of seven women and seven men in Nova Scotia Supreme Court on Thursday morning.

It was the beginning of a trial set to last 29 more days in court to decide whether Sandeson, a 24-year-old former Dalhousie University medical student, is guilty of first-degree murder in the killing of 22-year-old Samson, a fellow Dalhousie student.

MacKay told the jury Samson was last seen the night of August 15, 2015, on Sandeson’s own surveillance video, walking down the hallway to Sandeson’s Henry Street apartment, carrying “what looks like a bulky, hockey-style, black duffel bag.”

“You will also see text messages exchanged between Taylor Samson and William Sandeson … The plan was that Taylor Samson would supply William Sandeson with 20 lbs. of marijuana in exchange for $40,000 in cash,” MacKay told the jury.

“But for Taylor Samson, things didn’t work out as planned.”

Samson was reported missing to police the next day after he didn’t return to the frat house he lived in nearby.

“Because of the possibility his disappearance may have been connected to a drug deal gone bad, and the added sense of urgency and concern for his well-being that possibility indicated, the investigation into Taylor’s disappearance was reassigned to the major crime unit late on the afternoon of August 17,” MacKay said.

Though they couldn’t find the device itself, MacKay said police were able to find the last number that called Samson’s cellphone. They traced that number, from an online calling service, to a group home in Lower Sackville.

MacKay said police spoke to two employees there just before midnight on Monday, and one of them contacted Sandeson, who also worked at the group home. He reached out to police the next day, and went in for an interview, she said.

“But after having heard police were interested in speaking with him, and before meeting with (police) that afternoon, on Tuesday morning he removed garbage bags and other items from his apartment,” MacKay said.

MacKay said the jury would see video from Sandeson’s surveillance system that shows him walking out of his apartment with a few items, and she said police determined his cellphone was in Truro that morning. Sandeson’s family has a farm property in Lower Truro, which was extensively searched after his arrest.

MacKay said police found items at that property that were “recognizable” from the video from his apartment – including a shower curtain, a pair of gloves, and a “large, black, hockey-style duffel bag with a ripped shoulder strap.”

“DNA found at the scene contained a profile that matched the DNA profile of Taylor Samson,” she told the jury.

After his police interview, Sandeson let police take photos of text messages on his phone between he and Samson, MacKay said. When police got a chance to review them, MacKay said “they suddenly became very concerned” and realized, contrary to what Sandeson told police – that he’d planned to meet Samson for a small amount of marijuana, but Samson hadn’t showed up – the messages showed they were meeting for a much larger deal.

That evening, MacKay said police made “an emergency entrance” into Sandeson’s apartment “because they were concerned that Mr. Samson might be being held hostage there.” He wasn’t, she said, but police found and unplugged Sandeson’s surveillance system, and then secured the apartment while they waited for a warrant to search it.

That night, Sandeson was arrested.

“Initially, he denied knowing what had happened to Mr. Samson,” MacKay said. “Later, he gave police different accounts of what had happened, with the last one being that Mr. Samson had been shot in the area of the back of his head by intruders.”

When police did get a warrant, MacKay said, “forensic examination of the scene revealed several places that looked like blood or blood that had been cleaned up.”

“DNA testing was done, and other testing, and some samples contained DNA with a profile that matched the DNA profile of Taylor Samson,” she told the jury.

“A trigger-locked gun containing one bullet, and a pack of bullets from which two bullets were missing, were found in a locked gun safe in William Sandeson’s bedroom,” MacKay said, adding, “DNA with a profile matching Taylor Samson’s was found on the gun.”

“Police also located a bullet lodged in the window casing in the kitchen,” she said. “The bullet was tested for DNA, and DNA with a profile consistent with Taylor Samson’s DNA profile, was found on it, too.”

After Sandeson was arrested and charged, MacKay said police got a call from lawyer Joel Pink, who told them there were two men that wanted to share information about the Samson case.

The two men lived in an apartment with Sandeson’s brother, MacKay said, and they told police that Sandeson had dropped off a large amount of marijuana on Monday morning.

MacKay said Sandeson’s surveillance video shows him leaving his apartment Monday morning carrying some things, “including a small kitchen appliance box and a small duffel bag.”

When police executed a search warrant at Sandeson’s brother’s house, MacKay said they found 20 lbs. of marijuana “inside what looked like the same small kitchen appliance box and duffel bag.”

“You will hear that they also found on this DNA with a profile that matches the profile of Taylor Samson,” MacKay told the jury.

The jury also heard testimony Thursday from Samson’s mother, Linda Boutilier, and four Halifax police officers.

Boutilier told the court about her relationship with her son, and how odd it was that she hadn’t heard from him on the Sunday he was reported missing, as he was supposed to come to her home in Amherst.

"Sometimes he would just message me and say, 'I love you mum,’” she said.

When asked on the stand to identify a photo of her son, she started crying.

Samson’s body has never been found.

Outside court on Thursday, his stepmother, Karen Burke, said she hoped that would change.

“I hope that there’s enough evidence through the trial that Sandeson will admit guilt and tell us where Taylor is,” she said.

The trial is scheduled to resume Monday morning.

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