April 10, 2017 9:11 pm
Updated: April 11, 2017 7:21 am

Family of Saskatoon stabbing victim remembers him as a ‘loving’ person

Saskatoon police attend to the area where William Johnston was stabbed to death on April 18, 2015.

Neil Fisher / Global News

The family of a 44-year-old man who was stabbed to death in Saskatoon almost two years ago is remembering their late relative as a “gentle giant” who was a “loving person.”

During the early morning hours of April 18, 2015, William “Billy” Johnston was stabbed by Alvin Naistus, 26, after a confrontation at the Northwoods Inn & Suites. Last week, a jury found Naistus guilty of second-degree murder.

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“In the end, we got the decision that we ultimately came here for,” Johnston’s sister Shannon Kowtiuk said outside of Court of Queen’s Bench on Monday morning.

READ MORE: Saskatoon man found guilty in 2015 Northwoods Inn stabbing

Kowtiuk and her husband travelled from southern Ontario to attend Naistus’ trial. She said her brother was a “fantastic person,” even as he struggled with a drug addiction that stemmed from his teenage years.

“He was just super sweet, always making sure I was taken care of,” Kowtiuk said.

“He was a protector.”

A photo of William Johnston.


Kowtiuk said Johnston initially moved to Saskatoon to enter a drug rehabilitation program and got clean, before starting to pursue a career as a social worker. However, he eventually fell back into his addiction after being injured at work.

The Kowtiuks also found out that Johnston fathered a boy in Saskatoon, who was born roughly nine months after he was killed. They were able to meet the child’s foster family for the first time during their trip to Saskatoon for the murder trial.

“He looks so much like his father,” Kowtiuk said.

“We will continue through his life, to be the people that have to tell him about his father, good and bad.”

 A murder trial that hinged on question of self-defence

On the morning of the stabbing, Johnston and Naistus were in a confrontation outside a hotel room, according to witness testimony. Naistus’ lawyer argued that the stabbing was in self-defence, since Johnston was the initial aggressor.

However, video evidence showed Johnston backing away from Naistus moments before the stabbing. Crown prosecutors argued to the jury that the footage proved Naistus could have walked away from the altercation.

“[Naistus] chased him down at the end; Billy was leaving, he was heading for the road,” Brad Kowtiuk, Johnston’s brother-in-law, said regarding the video.

“He was leaving the property, I think that says words upon words of his character and how self-defence was not part of this case at all.”

WATCH MORE: Jury set to deliberate fate of a Saskatoon man charged with second-degree murder

A judge will now decide how many years Naistus will be ineligible for parole. A second-degree murder conviction automatically results in a life-long prison sentence, with at least a 10-year period before parole is possible.

“Ultimately, I want it to be longer,” Shannon Kowtiuk said.

“I know he’s not potentially going to be out in 10 years, but I am hoping he gets longer than that.”

Brad Kowtiuk added that he hopes Naistus is able to reform himself during his prison sentence.

“Is jail the answer? I don’t know that that’s the answer,” he said.

“The toughest thing for us is that he gets to walk again. Billy never will.”

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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