HALIFAX — A former medical student convicted of murder has won a different kind of court victory: He has been awarded nearly $700 after accusing a former roommate of stealing his sneakers and homemade wine from their Halifax apartment.
William Sandeson is serving a life sentence after a jury convicted him of the first-degree murder of 22-year-old Taylor Samson during a drug deal.
"The highly-publicized trial was in 2017. That conviction is under appeal by (Sandeson). All of this is well known to many observers in Halifax," Nova Scotia small claims court adjudicator Eric Slone wrote in a written decision released Tuesday.
"Less well known is the fact that (Sandeson) was an avid collector of shoes, specifically sneakers, and that he made his own wine in his spare time."
The decision said Sandeson was living with Dylan Zinck-Selig in August 2015 when the Dalhousie University student was arrested.
Their apartment was seized by police, and the ruling said Zinck-Selig was given limited access to retrieve essential items during the forensic investigation.
Afterwards, Sandeson claimed 18 of his 28 pairs of shoes were missing when his family went to collect his belongings. Also missing were approximately 40 bottles of homemade wine and between five and 10 bottles of liquor, he alleged.
"These shoeboxes can be seen on the short video made by the police forensic unit when they first entered the apartment with a search warrant, looking for evidence in connection with the alleged murder," Slone said, noting that many of the shoes were new and most were stored in shoeboxes in his closet.
Sandeson alleged that his former roommate took those items, which were valued at approximately $2,500.
The decision said Zinck-Selig admitted to taking two pairs of sneakers and four bottles of wine, but not all of the items. He testified most of Sandeson's shoes wouldn't have fit him, as they do not wear the same size, but the two pairs he did take were the right size.
"(Zinck-Selig) says he felt entitled to take these things as partial compensation for the fact that some of his stuff had been destroyed by the police or forensic personnel in their search of the premises," wrote Slone in the decision rendered April 17.
"The main item that he referred to was a beanbag chair that had been split open with the result that the beans were piled all over the floor, to the extent that many small items were literally buried in beans."
Slone noted Zinck-Selig was not the only person with access to the apartment — the landlord and police also had access — and he therefore determined the former roommate took some, but not all, of the items.
"In general terms, I have no problem with (Sandeson's) credibility. There is nothing inconsistent with his evidence, and his theory holds water to the extent that (Zinck-Selig) is logically someone who was in a position to help himself to the missing items," said Slone.
He noted he doesn't believe Zinck-Selig had a right to take anything that was not his.
"Legally speaking, he did not have a claim against (Sandeson) that entitled him to help himself to compensation. (Zinck-Selig) was a victim of systems beyond anyone's control. And of all the victims in the larger scenario, he was one of the least impacted," said Slone.
He awarded Sandeson $699.45 for the lost items and "process serving" fees.
At the time of his arrest, Sandeson had already completed one year of medical school in the Caribbean, was a track and field athlete, worked two jobs and had a girlfriend. He was due to start medical school at Dalhousie University within a week of the slaying.
Sandeson has no chance of parole for 25 years.
During his sentencing hearing, Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Joshua Arnold said it was on Aug. 15, 2015, that Samson went to Sandeson's Halifax apartment to sell nine kilograms of marijuana for $40,000 as part of a prearranged deal.
Samson was last seen alive on a video recording captured by Sandeson's surveillance system that night. There were no images of Samson walking out, the trial heard.
Arnold said Sandeson shot Samson while he was sitting at a kitchen table.
Crown lawyers had argued Sandeson, motivated by greed, devised a scheme to kill Samson and steal the marijuana to pay off his debts. Arnold said there was no evidence Sandeson had $40,000 cash to pay for the drugs.
In his closing arguments, defence lawyer Eugene Tan conceded there was a "violent incident'' at the apartment that night, but he said his client had always maintained there was someone else in the apartment.
Tan said Sandeson was taking an active role in his own case and was participating in every decision. He said Sandeson took a paralegal course while in prison so he could better understand his case.
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Aly Thomson, The Canadian Press
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