Devin Morningstar found guilty of murder, arson in death of Baylee Wylie
A jury has found 19-year-old Devin Morningstar guilty of first-degree murder and arson in the death of 18-year-old Baylee Wylie.
Wylie’s remains were found in a burned-out apartment in Moncton on Dec. 17, 2015.
The guilty verdict came down shortly after 2 p.m. Friday. The jury of seven women and five men had been deliberating since Wednesday.
First-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence with no possibility of parole for 25 years.
Over the course of the three-week trial, court heard evidence that Wylie had been beaten and stabbed between 140 and 150 times.
The jury heard closing arguments Tuesday, with the Crown and defence painting very different pictures of Morningstar.
Prosecutor Stephen Holt told the court Morningstar took part in Wylie’s forcible confinement and stabbed him three times with a knife while holding him down.
While the defence didn’t present any evidence during the trial, lawyer Bob Rideout told the jury that Morningstar was simply a ‘fall guy’ in a larger plan made by his co-accused.
Both the Crown and defence noted that Morningstar himself had been cut, with his blood placing him at the scene.
Morningstar did not take the stand in his own defence, but two interviews he gave to police shortly after his arrest were entered as evidence. He admitted to stabbing Wylie three times in the neck, as well as restraining him.
“I had hoped it would be something closer to manslaughter because of a number of issues the judge had outlined in his charge to them, but I think again, it was the statements that my client gave to the police that were the pivotal issue,” says defence lawyer Bob Rideout.
It was an emotional time after the verdict was handed down, with Wylie's and Morningstar's families and five jurors dissolving into tears.
The family of Baylee Wylie called the verdict a relief, releasing 18 blue balloons in memory of the 18-year-old.
Morningstar's mother says she expected her son to be found guilty of manslaughter and says they will appeal. She also offered her condolences to the Wylie family.
“Devin thought he was participating in an assault. Which is wrong, but he didn't realize he was participating in a murder,” says Tina Morningstar. “It was a horrific, horrific crime that took place, and I can't imagine what it would be like for his mom to sit in the courtroom and hear the details of that. My heart does, and has since the beginning, gone out to their family.
Justice John Walsh says there will be an opportunity for victim impact statements to be read at a later date.
Two other people - Marissa Shephard and Tyler Noel - are also facing first-degree murder and arson charges in Wylie’s death, but won't go to trial for at least another year.
Morningstar has been remanded into custody and will be sentenced on Jan. 11.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Cami Kepke and Jonathan MacInnis