Man convicted in ‘atrocious’ stabbing death maintains innocence

A man convicted in the stabbing death of Nadia Gonzales in Dartmouth, N.S., more than two years ago maintained his innocence Friday as he was sentenced to life in prison.

A jury found Calvin Joel Sparks and Samanda Rose Ritch, both in their 20s, guilty of first-degree murder in December following a six-week trial in Nova Scotia Supreme Court.

The conviction carries an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years.

In handing down the mandatory sentence, Justice Christa Brothers said Gonzales, 35, was stabbed approximately 40 times in her head, neck, back and legs at an apartment building in Dartmouth on June 16, 2017.

Brothers said her body was then stuffed into a black duffel bag.

“The sheer number of stab wounds … inflicted on Ms. Gonzales suggests a degree of brutality that is almost, and is, unfathomable,” said Brothers. “This was a violent, horrific and atrocious attack.”

Irene and Ray Gonzales, the parents of Nadia Gonzales, are shown following the jury’s verdict in December. Both read victim impact statements at the sentencing hearing. (Brooklyn Currie/CBC)

During the trial, the Crown had argued Sparks enlisted Ritch’s help to kill Gonzales — a mother of two girls — after his drug-dealing business relationship with her soured.

Both Sparks and Ritch addressed the court.

Looking toward Gonzales’s family and friends in the gallery of the courtroom, Ritch apologized.

“I’m learning a lesson and I’m learning it hard,” she said. “All I can do is ask forgiveness from her family and from the Lord.”

But Sparks maintained his innocence. 

“I am not a murderer,” said Sparks, adding that witnesses lied and that the jury did not treat his case fairly. “I am going to fight for my innocence.”

Police vehicles parked outside 33 Hastings Street in June 2017. (Frances Willick/CBC)

Seven victim impact statements were submitted as part of the sentencing hearing. Six were read aloud in court.

Kaylee Gonzales, the victim’s teenage daughter, cried as she told the court her mother will never get to see her graduate, get married or have children.

“Being 15 and my mom getting ripped away from my life is the worst thing that will ever happen to me,” she said. “She is my world and always will be.”

Gonzales’s mother, Irene Gonzales, said her life will never be the same.

“It’s a daily struggle not to fall into a deep depression,” she said through tears. 

“Our family is haunted day and night with the memory of what they have both done…. Her life was not for either of them to take away.”

Crown lawyer Robert Kennedy said the sentencing hearing gave family and friends a chance to express their sorrow through victim impact statements. (Brian MacKay/CBC)

Other family and friends described Gonzales as a loving mother, sister, daughter and friend who cared deeply for those around her.

Crown lawyer Robert Kennedy said it has been a difficult 2½ years for the Gonzales family and Sparks’s comments were disappointing.

“It’s unfortunate in circumstances like this, where in the Crown’s view the evidence was overwhelming in relation to Mr. Sparks’s guilt, that he is not expressing any degree of remorse or accountability for his actions,” Kennedy said outside of court.

Sparks and Ritch were credited with 952 days for time spent in custody.

Sparks was also convicted of unlawfully causing bodily harm in relation to stabbing injuries suffered by John Patterson, who was with Gonazles at the time of the killing.

Sparks was sentenced to four years in prison for that charge, to be served concurrently with his life sentence.

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