It was an emotional day at Nova Scotia Supreme Court on Sunday, as family and friends of Taylor Samson learned the man accused of killing him had been found guilty.
A six-man, six-woman jury found William Sandeson guilty of first-degree murder after deliberating for 22 hours over the course of four days.
When asked how she felt hearing the verdict, Taylor’s mother, Linda Boutiler, said she was relieved.
“I can actually sleep for a change. It’s like it’s been hell for 22 months.”
“Thank God,” sobbed Taylor’s grandmother, Elizabeth Samson. “There was no doubt at all.”
‘It’s a horror story’
The courtroom erupted in a combination of crying and cheering when the verdict was read out loud.
Boutiler told Sandeson to “take a bow” as he was being led out by sheriffs.
“He’s been arrogant. He doesn’t care about his family, my family, Taylor. It’s like, ‘You’re the one who wanted this whole trial, you wouldn’t take a plea bargain, so turn around and take a bow,”” Boutilier said.
“He’s a psychopath. He has no feeling, no emotion. It’s all about him. He wants something, he takes whatever he wants — and he doesn’t care how he gets it.”
Taylor’s father, Dean Samson, said he was satisfied with the verdict, but still felt torn.
“It’s a horror story.” he said. “My heart’s ripped out.”
WATCH: William Sandeson planned Taylor Samson’s murder, money was motive: Crown
The Crown alleged Sandeson lured Samson to his Henry Street apartment in Halifax on the night of Aug. 15, 2015 as part of a pre-arranged drug deal.
Once there, they say Sandeson shot Samson in the head at close range and dealt with his body.
Samson, 22, was last seen alive on video entering Sandeson’s apartment — he is never seen leaving.
100 pieces of evidence
Through the last nine weeks, the court heard that Samson’s DNA was found on a multitude of items — including a 9 mm Smith and Wesson handgun that police located inside a safe in Sandeson’s bedroom and a bullet recovered from a window frame in the kitchen of his apartment.
The victim’s DNA was also found on a swab taken from the trunk of Sandeson’s vehicle.
In addition, a shower curtain, tarp and duffel bag that were seized from inside an old ice cream truck on a farm belonging to Sandeson’s family all tested positive for Samson’s DNA.
Crown Attorney Susan MacKay said the jury had a lot of evidence to sift through in reaching their decision.
In total, 100 items were entered as evidence in the trial.
“We’re very pleased for the family of Taylor Samson,” MacKay said. “We’re very happy that the verdict was what it was, and we’re very happy that it’s over now, this stage of the proceedings for the family, and that we’ve had the verdict.”
‘He made people better just by existing’
Several of Taylor Samson’s friends — some from Dalhousie University, others from his hometown of Amherst, N.S. — were at the court proceedings each day of the trial.
“I’m thrilled with the verdict, that we finally have an answer after waiting for so long,” said Kaitlynne Lowe, one of Taylor’s best friends since high school.
Lowe was one of the friends who offered comfort and support to Boutiler and her family during the case.
She said it was “nearly impossible” to sum up how Taylor was as a person because he had “too big of a personality.”
“He was a leader. He made people better just by existing. He pushed everyone to be the best that they could be and he himself always wanted to be the best person ever. He wanted to do everything for the people that he loved.”
‘I am going to find my son’
Even with the guilty verdict, many questions remain for Samson’s loved ones.
Boutilier has been searching for her son’s remains since he first disappeared on Aug. 15, 2015.
A GoFundMe Campaign, called “Help Find Taylor Samson”, was recently launched to help raise money to continue the search for Samson’s body.
The campaign says funds raised through GoFundMe will go towards deploying cadaver dogs (who are specifically trained to find human remains), private investigators and search teams.
“I want my son back. I’m going looking after this trial and I am going to find my son,” Boutilier said.
“If [Sandeson] doesn’t want to help us, then fine. I’ll find him on my own. I’m not going to stop looking for Taylor. I’m going to bring him home.”
Sandeson ‘moving forward’: defence lawyer
Eugene Tan, one of William Sandeson’s defence lawyers, told reporters that Sandeson asked his family not to come to court Sunday for the verdict.
Tan said Sandeson told him to “chin up” before — and after — being found guilty of first-degree murder.
“He is focused on moving forward… What he said to me is, ‘Don’t worry about me, we’ll keep moving forward,”” Tan said.
Tan is a friend of Sandeson’s family and noted that it was a difficult day for him.
“When you have an emotional connection with a client, and sometimes you develop that over the course, but if you have an emotional connection beforehand, it does make everything a little bit harder” Tan said.
“It makes the decisions a little bit harder to take, it makes the decision about what advice you’re going to give them a little bit harder, and at the end of the day, whatever happens, I think I take it a little bit more personally then I would otherwise.”
Tan would not say whether or not Sandeson intends to launch an appeal at this time.
Automatic life sentence
In Canada, a first-degree murder conviction comes with an automatic life sentence, with no eligibility to apply for parole for 25 years.
Sandeson has been in custody since Aug. 18. 2015, meaning he has to serve over 23 years in prison before he is eligible to apply for parole.
Judge Josh Arnold will officially sentence Sandeson on July 11 at 9:30 a.m. at Nova Scotia Supreme Court.
At that time, Taylor Samson’s family members will have an opportunity to present victim impact statements to the court.
“It’s important for the families of the victim to say what they want to say to the offender and the public about how this has affected them,” MacKay said.