Crown warns jury about disturbing evidence in killing of Nova Scotia woman

Jennifer Horne was a "home body" out on a date before she was stabbed multiple times and suffocated after having duct tape wrapped around her head, a Nova Scotia prosecutor said Wednesday at the opening of a murder trial he warned would be disturbing and shocking.

HALIFAX - Jennifer Horne was a "home body" out on a date before she was stabbed multiple times and suffocated after having duct tape wrapped around her head, a Nova Scotia prosecutor said Wednesday at the opening of a murder trial he warned would be disturbing and shocking.

Robert Morrison described Horne as a responsible 20-year-old who always let her parents know where she was. The Supreme Court jury of seven men and five women heard that Horne had just started dating Desmond Maguire, who is accused of first-degree murder, and had no previous boyfriend.

Morrison said Horne had gone out to a bar with Maguire, 39, a co-worker at a seniors home in the Halifax area, on Dec. 29, 2007.

The prosecutor said Horne was later taken back to Maguire's apartment and secured to a chair with duct tape, which was wrapped around her hands, mouth and eyes.

Morrison said a small slit was cut for the woman's nose and ears, before her clothes were cut off and she was sexually assaulted and stabbed in her genitals.

Horne's body was found New Year's Eve at an apartment in Dartmouth.

Maguire and his girlfriend, Ashley Haley, 22, were charged a day later in the death of the young woman.

On Monday, Haley pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. She is to be sentenced June 30.

The mandatory sentence for a conviction of first-degree murder is life in prison with no parole eligibility until 25 years have been served.

Morrison said the evidence will show that Maguire first told police that he took Horne to a bar in Dartmouth and then to her home at 10 p.m. But he said that when Maguire was questioned again, he said he had taken her back to his apartment.

Once she was there, Morrison said, the assault began.

"She received over 40 injuries," he said, adding that one injury in particular would have endangered Horne's life.

"She may well have bled to death had she not been suffocated."

Morrison said the amount of duct tape that was used led to Horne's death by suffocation.

"What eventually killed Jennifer was an additional layer of duct tape wrapped around Jennifer's entire face, which created a complete airtight seal," he said.

About 20 family members, including Jennifer's mother, attended the trial.

Jennifer's brother, Andrew Horne, 19, testified that Jennifer had come home to her father's house on the night of Dec. 29 and left after changing out of her work clothes and telling him she was going out.

He said he grew worried about his sister when she didn't return and had called her cellphone between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. trying to find out where she was.

Jennifer's father, Kevin Horne, 50, testified that Maguire was the first man "who had shown Jennifer any interest."

He and his daughter had strong bonds and he described her as caring towards others.

After Horne and his wife divorced, Jennifer divided her time equally between the two "because she didn't want to hurt me or her mother. It was just the way she was," he said.

Horne identified various articles of clothing and jewelry belonging to his daughter for the court, including the Sweet 16 gold pendant he'd purchased for her on her birthday, which he held in his hands and gazed at after identifying it.

"She wore that chain ever since the day I gave it to her," he said. "It never left her neck from the day I gave it to her."

Horne said he organized a search party that combed through his neighbourhood after hearing she hadn't gone to work on Dec. 30.

He said it was unheard of for his daughter to be late for work, or to simply not show up, and he had sensed immediately that "something was wrong."

During the search, he found an old cellphone that included Maguire's telephone number. He called the number and heard a male voice, with a female voice in the background, but the telephone went dead.

Horne was informed of his daughter's death on Jan. 1 at 3:30 a.m. He identified her from a photo a few days later.

Steve Andrews, a step-uncle of Horne's, said the family has been waiting 2 1/2 years for the start of the trial and it was a difficult day.

"A number of family members testified, so that was difficult," he said outside court. "This is one more step in the journey and we'll see this through to the end."