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A 32-year-old New Waterford man will be formally sentenced to life in prison in July after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in the stabbing death of a Sydney businessman nearly four years ago.
Aaron Shaun Young pleaded guilty Thursday to repeatedly stabbing 54-year-old James David Matthews inside his Prince Street apartment on Aug. 27, 2017.
Young was scheduled to stand trial on the charge later this year but instead entered a guilty plea and will receive the mandatory life sentence.
What remains to be decided is just how long Young must serve before becoming eligible to apply for parole. Justice Robin Gogan will make that decision July 26.
Prosecutors Kathryn Pentz and Shane Russell along with defence lawyers Peter Mancini and Allison Aho appeared before Gogan on Thursday to present an agreed statement of facts.
Although he resided primarily in Halifax, Matthews, originally from Sydney Mines, also had an apartment in Sydney on the third floor of the Prince Street Market, a property he owned. He was also the co-owner of a financial planning company in Halifax.
After hosting a dinner party for five friends at his apartment on Aug. 27, video surveillance from internal corridor cameras shows the last guest left the apartment at 10:05 p.m. Matthews then exits the premises at about 10:14 p.m.
The video showed Matthews rather unsteady on his feet; a toxicology report indicated that he was deemed to be moderately to severely intoxicated.
At 10:31 p.m., Matthews is seen coming back to the apartment with another man, now identified as Young.
Some 24 minutes later, Young emerged from the apartment and leaves the building alone.
After repeated attempts by Matthews’s spouse, Dr. Stephen Couban, to contact him on Aug. 29 – two days after Matthews’s altercation with Young – Couban contacted a friend who went to the apartment and found Matthews dead.
According to the statement of facts, Matthews was found on his back slightly wedged between a kitchen island and the stove. He was shirtless and barefoot and his pants were partially pulled down below his buttocks.
A wooden knife handle, matching the blade that was found in the living room, was underneath a picture frame next to Matthews. A second knife was found standing up in the sink.
A broken top of a crystal decanter was discovered on the hallway floor while shattered glass was noted on the living room floor along with being embedded in the wall above a liquor cabinet. A flat-screen television was knocked off its stand onto the floor, and Young’s fingerprint was lifted off a partially filled drinking glass.
Matthews’s blood was discovered in various locations throughout the apartment – in the entry hallway, bedroom threshold, kitchen, dining room, living room and bathroom – suggesting a struggle throughout the apartment. A bloody towel was in the dining room.
Young was arrested Aug. 28 in connection with two robberies in New Waterford. He was charged with the murder of Matthews on Sept. 8, and in a statement to police, admitted to the crime.
He told investigators he had never been to the apartment prior to the altercation and that he and Matthews sat in the living room and that Matthews had poured them both a drink.
There were unconfirmed reports that the pair had met on a gay social media app but Pentz said Thursday there was no evidence of that and it appeared the two had a happenstance meeting on the street when Matthews stepped out after his dinner guests had left for the night.
Although there was conflicting evidence as to what exactly transpired between the two, the Crown and defence agreed Young inflicted injuries that resulted in the death of Matthews.
According to the autopsy report, Matthews suffered at least 27 sharp-force injuries to his head, neck, chest, abdomen, hands and back. His nose was broken and his throat was cut.
Young admitted taking $40 from the apartment, along with Matthews’s cellphone, which he told police he later ditched. The phone was never recovered.
Young was also facing a charge of robbery in connection with Matthews's death, in addition to two other robbery offences that occurred in New Waterford in the days before the killing.
He was also charged with wearing a mask in the commission of an offence, possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose and breaching a court order.
All of those charges were dismissed Thursday in exchange for the guilty plea.
Young has served a prior federal sentence – two years and eight months – imposed in 2013 on a charge of break and enter.
He also served a provincial sentence in 2011 of nine months on a charge of failing to stop at the scene of an accident that caused bodily harm. He was also banned at the time from driving for three years.