'Swift, brutal and purposeful': Killer in random stabbing on Calgary LRT platform guilty of murder
A Calgary man who killed a father of three in an unprovoked stabbing on a CTrain platform in 2017 is guilty of second-degree murder, a judge ruled Thursday.
Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Michele Hollins called the killing “swift, brutal and purposeful” as she convicted Keeton Gagnon, 43, in the death of Nicholas Nwonye.
The evening of June 2, 2017, the 46-year-old father was waiting to board a train at City Hall station. He was studying nursing at Bow Valley College and was on his way home.
Court heard CCTV footage captured the moments before the attack, where Hollins said Gagnon was seen carrying a long bladed knife in his right hand.
Nwonye was waiting to board the train when Gagnon tapped him on the shoulder. When he turned around, he was stabbed three times.
Two of the stab wounds went through vital organs, including his heart, the court heard.
Gagnon walked away but was arrested a short time later.
The judge said the only issue for her to decide at the trial was whether or not Gagnon was guilty of murder or manslaughter.
Hollins said she determined Gagnon intended to cause severe bodily harm, leading her to convict him of second-degree murder.
Outside court, Crown prosecutor Ken McCaffrey said he is pleased with the judgement.
“The attack in this case was one of gratuitous violence. It’s extremely cowardly and puts a chill in the community because the victim in this case was minding his own business.”
“What’s particularly sad is he was coming to Canada to make a better life for his family and was in nursing school. So the community really lost when Mr. Nwonye was killed,” said McCaffrey.
Nwonye worked as an engineer in Nigeria and had just moved with his family to Calgary 18 months before his death.
He was working two jobs while taking classes to support his wife and three children, including a newborn.
His wife did not attend Thursday’s decision. Two of Nwonye’s sisters and mother attended virtually from New Jersey.
“In my mind I’ve always known he was guilty…but it doesn’t change the situation that Nicholas is gone that we can never see him,” said Ezi Agwu, Nwyone’s younger sister.
“For me today, it’s more of a deterrance so that he doesn’t do this to some other person.”
Agwu said family members had been prepared to travel to Calgary for the trial which was originally scheduled for April 2019, but the case was adjourned several times.
“The accused person in this case has been delaying justice but they always say justice delayed is not justice denied.”
Agwu said her brother’s death has been extremely difficult for the family.
“Nicholas was a very kind, peaceful person,” she said.
Agwu said it’s devastating knowing how her brother was killed.
“He waited for him to get up and stabbed him at the back. Who does that? That’s a coward,” said Agwu.
Some family members may travel to Calgary for sentencing.
The judge ordered a Gladue report, which looks at an Indigenous offender’s upbringing.
Gagnon faces an automatic life sentence with no parole for 10 to 25 years. A date for a sentencing hearing will be set in November.