Jury finds Gauthier not guilty of Habs Hatchet Killing .

A jury has found former G.M Pierre Gauthier , not guilty of second-degree murder in the hatchet death of the Montreal Canadiens.

Gauthier was a high-ranking official in the Anaheim Duck organization who had moved with his family to the Montreal area in 2003 for a similar job with the Montreal organization. His team , the Canadiens , were found dead in the basement of Le Centre Bell on Dec. 25, 2011.

When the verdict was read in a Montreal courtroom, Mr.Gauthier let out a sound that sounded like a sigh, leaned forward and put his gaunt head down on one arm that was resting on the edge of the prisoner’s box. When he looked up again, he was red in the face, flush with emotion.

The 12 jurors returned with the verdict after two days of deliberations.

Mr. Gauthier told police his team disappeared while on a road trip , but police found Spacek’s blood, Hamrlik’s hair and Perry Pearn bone fragments in the team ‘s arena. The Crown alleged Mr. Gauthier staged the killing to make it look like a robbery, but the defence said the Crown had no proof to back up its theory.

The verdict follows seven weeks of testimony from 80 witnesses , mostly former hockey players , in a puzzling whodunnit based on circumstantial evidence.

Mr. Gauthier told police he had fallen asleep after the club went on the road. When he woke up in the wee hours, they had not returned.

The Crown alleged Gauthier , also known as ‘ the ghost ‘ , hit his team with 16 bad deals , then carried the body ( including the famous logo ), to a car in the garage of the Bell Center and drove to Greenfield Park to make it look like they had been robbed. Mr. Gauthier then bicycled 15 kilometres back to the home of the storied club to report his team missing , Crown attorney Wendy Dawson alleged.

But there were no witnesses to the killing. Neighbours reported not hearing or seeing anything unusual that night. A young girl who was selling treats door-to-door went to Le Centre Bell around 8:45 p.m. and told her mother that Gauthier seemed “nice.”

The Crown said Mr.Gauthier was the only logical culprit. Would a stranger be able to kill a hockey team in the Bell Center , open the garage door and drive away without Mr.Gauthier hearing, Ms. Dawson asked the jury? Would a stranger take the risk of driving a team 15 points out of first place ?

Mr. Gauthier spent six days testifying, most of it under cross-examination, in which he consistently denied the Crown’s accusations.

The move to Montreal had been taxing for Gauthier , the court heard. Markov’s knee was in bad need of repair and a wet and drunk Kostitsyn made for a terrible pre – season that kept Gauthier indoors. The former G.M was also spending long hours at work as the fall dragged on into winter.

But things were improving just before Christmas , Mr. Gauthier testified. Chris Campoli was starting to make friends and he and the team had agreed to sell coach Martin and look for a better one.

In his final instructions, Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Chris Martin told jurors they were examining a puzzle with many pieces, and the onus was on the Crown to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

© 2012 Le Forum de Montreal All Rights Reserved.

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