Friends detail last hours of yoga teacher's life at Butcher murder trial
Published Friday, April 6, 2018 10:13AM ADT Last Updated Friday, April 6, 2018 7:35PM ADT
HALIFAX -- Montreal-born yoga instructor Kristin Johnston told friends she had ended her relationship with Nicholas Butcher, hours before he allegedly killed her inside her home on Halifax's outskirts, her childhood friend testified Friday.
"She seemed relieved," Lisa Abramowicz told the second-degree murder trial of Butcher, 35. Johnston had told her Butcher was "desperately in love" with her, and she had felt trapped, said Abramowicz.
The Crown alleges that within hours on March 26, 2016, the law school graduate killed Johnston and tried to kill himself.
Abramowicz told the 14-member Nova Scotia Supreme Court jury she met up with Johnston at Halifax's Lion and Bright bar the night before her death.
She said Johnston, 32, talked about ending her relationship with Butcher, and about having one last summer in Halifax before moving to Tofino, B.C., to be closer to her sister.
Abramowicz said the pair left the bar and went to her place nearby before going to another friend's duplex, where the three listened to records and talked about life over a drink.
She said Johnston seemed "very happy, very bubbly" -- but Butcher suddenly appeared in the doorway.
"Kristin said something to the effect of 'What are you doing here?"' said Abramowicz.
Abramowicz, 34, said Johnston seemed surprised to see Butcher, but "there wasn't any fear."
She said Johnston led Butcher down a stairwell and was gone for about 10 minutes before she came back in without him.
She testified that Johnston said: "I ended it."
The group then started wondering how Butcher found out where she was, so Abramowicz messaged him through Facebook, with Johnston helping to craft the messages.
She asked if he was OK, to which he replied "No." He then asked if Kristin was OK, and Abramowicz asked how he had found them. Neither replied to each other's question.
Abramowicz said she left around 4 a.m., while Johnston remained at the duplex with their friend.
She also read text messages Johnston had sent her earlier that day. She said Johnston was feeling "trapped" because she had let Butcher move into her home in Purcells Cove.
"I'm an idiot and don't know how to say no ΓÇª I felt pressured into it. He had nowhere to go," she said, reading a message Johnston had sent her.
"He's desperately in love. It's too much for me.... I'm absolutely panicked."
Witnesses have testified that Butcher was having difficulty finding articling work after graduating from Dalhousie University's law school, and was struggling to pay his rent.
Earlier Friday, Anna Gilkerson, who owns a clothing store in Halifax, testified that Johnston was a patron of her store, and that they had mutual friends. Johnston had also worked at few shifts at her shop, she said.
"She was a really nice person. The type of person you'd want to be friends with," said Gilkerson, 36.
Gilkerson said she had briefly popped into Lion and Bright on the evening of March 25, 2016, to see Johnston, who had just returned from Costa Rica, and to discuss some upcoming shifts she would be working at the store.
"She was glowing and happy and having a really good time," she said, adding that Johnston had told her she didn't want to go home that night because she didn't want to see her boyfriend.
Heather Townsend, 34, testified that she also saw Johnston at Lion and Bright that evening, and that it was her first time meeting Johnston.
Townsend, whose fiance Matthew Whiston was friends with Johnston and testified Thursday, says Johnston talked about wanting to end her relationship with Butcher and the trio joked about ways to break-up with people.
She became emotional on the stand as she testified that Johnston requested her friendship on Facebook moments after her and Whiston left the bar around 11 p.m., and that Johnston expressed in messages how happy she was to have met Townsend.
Butcher has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder.
Prosecutor Tanya Carter has said the medical examiner will testify that Johnston had 10 wounds on her neck, and that her death was caused by sharp force.
The trial will continue Monday with the cross-examination of Abramowicz.