A Nova Scotia man charged with murdering his fiancée has been found guilty of manslaughter.
James Leopold, 33, was accused of killing Laura Lee Robertson, 47, in April 2011. He pleaded not guilty to a charge of second-degree murder, but the jury found him guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter.
Amanda Jones, the victim's daughter, said she felt "let down" by the verdict.
"Jamie's had the opportunity to crush my entire family, to completely turn our lives upside down for eternity and I didn't expect any less," she told reporters outside the courtroom.
"We've been through a lot in the last year and now it's just time for us to be a family and rebuild."
Supreme Court Justice Kevin Coady gave his instructions to the 12-member jury on Wednesday morning. He said they had three choices: acquit Leopold of second-degree murder, find him guilty of second-degree murder or find him guilty of the lesser offence of manslaughter.
The jurors deliberated for several hours before returning to the courtroom once, requesting to listen to the forensic pathologist's testimony a second time. They delivered their verdict shortly after 3:30 p.m. AT on Wednesday.
The Criminal Code of Canada states that a homicide that otherwise would be murder may be reduced to manslaughter if the person who committed it did so in the heat of passion, caused by sudden provocation.
During his trial in Bridgewater, Leopold claimed he accidentally killed Robertson in their Liverpool apartment during a night of drunken sex.
Sentencing to begin June 27
The jury watched a tape where Leopold told police Robertson bit his penis and he quickly reacted to the pain by hitting her in the neck. He also said he panicked and placed her body in a wooded area in Greenfield.
The Crown claimed Leopold deliberately killed his fiancée.
The Crown said Robertson died of asphyxiation, so Leopold's hands would have had to be on Robertson's neck for four to five minutes — longer than just a punch.
Tim Robertson, Laura Lee's son, testified that his mother was arguing with Leopold.
"I think justice was served," said James Leopold Sr., father of the accused. "Sad on both sides."
Jones said no verdict would erase her anger for the man who killed her mother.
"The verdict wasn't going to bring her back and his sentence isn't going to bring her back, so I would've never been settled," she said.
"I think it's important to have a verdict and to have closure put to this."
Crown attorney Leigh-Ann Bryson told reporters prosecutors knew there was a chance the jurors would find the manslaughter charge more appropriate in the case.
"We knew it was a possibility based on the evidence we had available," she said.
"Clearly, the jury paid a lot of attention during the trial and considered the verdicts open to them."
Leopold's sentencing hearing will begin on June 27.
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