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Zeballos woman not guilty of manslaughter

A Zeballos woman who stabbed her common-law husband in the heart has been found not guilty of manslaughter.

Family and friends of Marguerite John gasped as B.C. Supreme Court Justice  Douglas Halfyard found her not guilty on Friday morning.

“…the Crown has failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused did not act in self-defence…It follows that, when the accused stabbed Russell John, she was no committing an unlawful act,” said the judge.

There was no argument that the 33-year-old stabbed Russell John, 41, in the heart on the morning of March 7, 2009. They had spent the previous night drinking, arguing and fighting in a trailer on the Ehattesaht First Nation Reserve.

At some point she kicked Russell out of the trailer and he went to sleep at his uncle’s home nearby. In the morning, Marguerite awoke and was angry to find her trailer in disarray as well as her front door key missing.

Still drunk, she went to the house where Russell was to “straighten him out.” Russell was sleeping, and was still impaired himself, when she slapped him to awaken him from his stupour. But he didn’t have her key and they began arguing again.

And then she stabbed him once in the chest. The knife missed his ribs and punctured his heart. A pathologist testified at trial that it wouldn’t have taken much force to inflict the fatal wound.

The defence offered no evidence at trial. But during the summation, Marguerite’s lawyer, Chris Massey, said that Russell had charged Marguerite and that’s when she defended herself.

Russell collapsed on the couch, bleeding profusely from the wound while Marguerite attempted to stop the blood loss and called 911.

“I stabbed him in the chest…he’s bleeding to death, we need an ambulance fast!…Russell, wake up!” Marguerite said through her sobs, in an audio recording of the 911 call heard during the trial.

But less than hour later, Russell was dead.

Soon after, Marguerite was charged with murder, but that was later reduced to manslaughter. She’s been on bail since then.

The night before the stabbing, she had inflicted a minor cut to his chest with a knife, and in June 2007, she had stabbed him in the chest with a large piece of glass.

For his part, Russell had four criminal convictions for assault. Two were for assaulting his former common-law wife and one for assaulting Marguerite in 2001. The court also heard that he had choked Marguerite on three previous occasions.

The two had lived together, off and on, for 12 years and had two children together.

In his decision, Justice Halfyard said the Crown did not prove that Marguerite wasn’t acting in self-defence and found her not guilty on the single count of manslaughter.

Marguerite cried after hearing the decision and embraced family and friends outside the courtroom

“Now you can go home and see your babies,” said one woman as she hugged Marguerite.

paulr@campbellrivermirror.com

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