An Alberta truck driver accused of killing a Saskatchewan woman has been found not guilty of second-degree murder.
If he had been found guilty of the killing of Jarita Naistus, Gordon Dwight Hurley, 46, would have been facing an automatic sentence of life in prison, with a minimum of 10 years before being eligible for parole.
Instead, he's now a free man.Jurors have decided the man charged with murdering Jarita Naistus, right, is not guilty. Jurors have decided the man charged with murdering Jarita Naistus, right, is not guilty. (CBC)
After deliberating Monday night and Tuesday morning, a Queen's Bench jury in Battleford reached the verdict at around 10:30 a.m. CST.
The body of Naistus, who was from Onion Lake and was 20 when she died, was found in a Lloydminster hotel room five years ago, strangled and beaten.
It's the second time the case has gone to trial. The first time, there was a guilty verdict.
However, an appeal court found that the original judge erred and a new trial was ordered.
This time, the jury took about five hours to reach its verdict.
When the foreperson said "not guilty" there was a collective gasp from people in the courtroom.
Some people started crying.
For Dwight Hurley, who has spent years behind bars, they were tears of relief.
"I just feel sorry for the victim's family you know?" Hurley said outside the courthouse.
"My nightmare has ended and theirs is started. I have nothing more to say about that. I'm just glad that I'm going home."
As Hurley walked away, the victim's family looked on.
"It's just shocking to watch him walk out of the courtroom with a big smile on his face," said Alaiyne Dillion, who is Jarita Naistus' sister. "It really hurts."
Dillion said she hopes the police keep looking for new evidence.
Meanwhile, there has been no decision made yet about a Crown appeal.