Accused killer Christopher Garnier took the stand Monday to testify on his own behalf.
Garnier, 30, is facing charges of second-degree murder and improperly interfering with a dead body. He has pleaded not guilty to both charges.
Defence says Campbell died as result of erotic asphyxiation
The Crown has alleged Garnier struck off-duty Truro police officer Catherine Campbell on the head and strangled her. In their opening remarks, the Crown alleged Garnier using a green bin to transport Campbell’s body from an apartment on McCully Street to a wooded area under the Macdonald Bridge where it was later found by police.
Defence lawyer Joel Pink said in his opening statement to the court that Catherine Campbell died as the result of a consensual sex or erotic asphyxiation that “unfortunately went wrong”.
Garnier says Campbell asked him to choke her
Garnier told the seven-man, seven-woman jury that he went to stay with his friend, Mitch Devoe after he and his girlfriend broke up.
Garnier said he met Campbell at the Halifax Alehouse and they went back to his friend’s apartment which was located at 5714 McCully Street.
WATCH: Surveillance video from inside the Halifax Alehouse on the night the Crown alleges off-duty Truro police officer Catherine Campbell was killed
Once there, Garnier says he and Campbell started kissing and she asked him if he had ever been into domination, something Garnier said took him off guard.
Garnier says the pair kept kissing in the hallway when Campbell asked him to choke her. He says he placed both his hand on her neck for about 30 seconds.
“If she ever resisted, I would have stopped,” he told the jury.
Garnier testified the pair then made their way to a pullout sofa in the den of the apartment. Once there, Garnier says he laid on his side and Campbell asked him to slap her. Garnier says he slapped her quickly three times. Garnier said he was embarrassed and didn’t look at Campbell’s face while he did it.
Garnier says he panicked, vision was blurry
Shortly after that, Garnier says he felt blood on him and ran to the bathroom to get a towel. When he came back Campbell hadn’t moved.
Garnier told the court that he grabbed her shoulders and shook her before hearing a gasp and moving back towards the doorway of the room.
Garnier said he was panicked, his vision was blurry and he was sick to his stomach. He recalled folding the mattress at the apartment and the pillars under the Macdonald Bridge but not placing Campbell in a green bin. Garnier told the court when police showed him the video of him with a green bin “it was like I was watching someone else in my body.”
When asked by his lawyer if Garnier ever lost control as the Crown has suggested, Garnier replied “no sir, never.”
WATCH: Video of a man pushing a pushing a green bin from a McCully Street home
Garnier explains items found in vehicle he was driving when he was arrested
Garnier said he remembers waking up at the McCully Street apartment, getting his stuff and going to his father’s house. Later that evening, he and his girlfriend, Brittany Francis got back together.
Garnier said he had a sick feeling in his stomach and tried to sleep in the days that followed but he had nightmares. He recalled seeing an ID or a card indicating Campbell was a police officer, he believed that was at the McCully Street apartment.
Garnier said he drove around from McCully Street to the bridge about a dozen times trying to put together his memories.
Garnier told the court he took his girlfriend’s vehicle on the night he was arrested because it had more gas and that he moved items like a tarp, blanket and gloves to her SUV because he was planning on going somewhere, possibly a service road off Lucasville Road where he could be alone in the woods.
Garnier says after driving from Clayton Park to downtown and then back he saw police lights behind him and drove past his house so he wouldn’t wake up his girlfriend and their dogs. Until he was placed under arrest for murder, Garnier said he thought maybe Campbell was missing, noting that he saw a post online about her family asking for help locating her.
‘I didn’t mean for Catherine to die’
Garnier read the letter he wrote to Catherine Campbell’s family while being interrogated for the court.
In part, the letter read: “I never wanted this to happen. I’ve always been a caring person, but this is my darkest moment,” Garnier wrote. “I don’t expect you to forgive me for what happened, so I won’t ask for your forgiveness.”
“If I could give my own life to get hers back I would. I will carry this with me for the rest of my life.”
When asked by his lawyer if there is anything else he wanted to say he replied: “I didn’t mean for Catherine to die, it was an accident” and “if I could talk to her family I would say I was sorry.”
During cross-examination by Crown Attorney Christine Driscoll, she asked how Campbell’s death could be an accident if he told police during his police interrogation that he punched her two to three times. Garnier said that police weren’t believing him when he told them he couldn’t remember and that was the only way he could get out of the interrogation room.
When asked if Garnier was embarrassed and ashamed about erotic asphyxiation, he said yes. Driscoll said Garnier was embarrassed about that but admitted to punching a woman in the head and strangling her until he heard her last breaths during the interrogation.
WATCH: Christopher Garnier describes having his hands around Catherine Campbell’s neck during a police interrogation in September 2015.
Case continues Tuesday
The Crown will continue their cross-examination Tuesday at 9:30 a.m., at Nova Scotia Supreme Court in Halifax.
Twenty-three court days over five weeks have been set aside to hear the case, with a verdict expected just before Christmas.