Was Marguerite John acting in self defence or did she kill her common-law husband to end an abusive relationship?
That’s a question being contemplated by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Douglas Halfyard as John’s trial came to a close on Tuesday in Campbell River.
The 33-year-old Zeballos resident is charged with manslaughter in the stabbing death of her estranged husband Russell John.
The 42-year-old died from a single stab wound to the heart on March 7, 2009. Just seconds after he was stabbed in his uncle’s home on the Ehattesaht Reserve, Marguerite made a frantic 911 call.
“He’s bleeding to death!” Marguerite told the ambulance operator, in a recording heard at trial last week. “I stabbed him in the chest…he’s bleeding to death, we need an ambulance fast!…Russell, wake up!”
But the bleeding couldn’t be stopped and Russell died before an air ambulance was able to fly him out of the tiny West Coast village.
In the Crown’s summation, prosecutor Leslie Fillingham said the 911 call is a key piece of evidence in the case. During the call, Marguerite told the operator that she’s still intoxicated and stabbed Russell because he often beats her up.
During the trial, relatives testified they occasionally saw Marguerite with black eyes or bruises on her arms. They also indicated that she wanted to get of the abusive, alcohol-fuelled relationship with Russell.
However, Fillingham pointed to inconsistencies in Marguerite’s version of events (Marguerite did not testify at the trial).
The night before Russell was killed, Marguerite had been waiting for her mother to return from shopping in Campbell River.
After helping to unpack the groceries, Marguerite indicated she was tired and wanted to go to bed. However, Russell was waiting for her inside the trailer.
She had kicked him out of their home several months earlier, in an attempt to stop drinking, but it appeared they were trying to reconcile their relationship.
But on that night, the two began drinking vodka which led to an argument.
At some point, she kicked Russell out of the trailer and he punched out a window with his fist.
The next morning, said Fillingham, Marguerite woke up and was angry at Russell because her trailer was a mess and her door key was missing.
She went to where Russell was staying and slapped him on the cheek to wake him from his stupour.
Moments later, she stabbed Russell in the chest with a folding knife. She later told police she stabbed him to avoid being beaten.