HALIFAX - Jurors were told Thursday of how Kristin Johnston agonized over how to break up with the man now accused of killing her, seeking the advice of friends and texting that she felt "trapped" in Halifax.
"I need to end things with Nick," the Montreal-born yoga instructor sent in a message to Jennifer Hazard a few days before her death, shared with the jury at Nicholas Butcher's second-degree murder trial.
"Doing what I can not to be home."
Hazard, Johnston's best friend, told the Nova Scotia Supreme Court jury that Johnston came to visit her in Costa Rica in early March 2016 after shutting down her yoga business in Halifax.
Hazard said Johnston, 32, appeared exhausted when she arrived, but by the end of the trip her mood had changed. She described Johnston as "the brightest light."
"She was ready for a new chapter and so excited to move to Tofino (B.C.) and start a new life," said Hazard, sometimes becoming emotional on the stand.
Hazard said they planned to meet in Montreal about a month later to see a Father John Misty concert before going back to Halifax to pack up and drive across the country so Johnston could live with her older sister.
She said Johnston told her she was stressed about how to break up with Butcher, who was staying at her house while she was away and taking care of her pitbull, Charlie.
When Johnston arrived back in Halifax, they exchanged many messages, she said.
"Home is really hard," Hazard said, reading a message Johnston had sent to her days before her death. "I feel so trapped here it's nuts."
The Crown alleges Butcher, a graduate of Dalhousie University's law school, killed Johnston and tried to kill himself inside her home in Purcells Cove on Halifax's outskirts on March 26, 2016.
The prosecution says the medical examiner will testify that Johnston had 10 wounds on her neck, and that her death was caused by sharp force.
The 35-year-old man has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder.
Craig Conoley, Johnston's former boyfriend, testified that he talked with Johnston over Facebook messenger the day before she died, and that she spoke about having "anchors" in her life in Halifax, including the house she owned and her partner.
Conoley read a message Johnston had sent him: "I'm panicking. I've never felt like this before."
Conoley said Johnston talked about wanting to move on but not knowing how to tell Butcher.
He said he told her not to "self-sabotage" like she did in their relationship, as there were times she would become withdrawn or distant. Conoley said he advised her to end the relationship and not let it linger.
Also Thursday, Johnston's friend Matthew Whiston testified that he spent time with her at the north end Halifax bar Lion and Bright the night before she died.
Over a few beers, Whiston said she asked him how to break up with someone.
"She said that she wasn't happy in the relationship, that she didn't love him the way he loves her," he said, adding that despite having just shut down her business, she appeared extremely positive and happy.
In her opening statement Wednesday, prosecutor Tanya Carter said Butcher "couldn't be without Kristin Johnston, and killed her.''
"The evidence is not complicated. Kristin's life ended in tragedy, and the evidence points to Mr. Butcher committing murder,'' she said.
Carter said Butcher called 911 from Johnston's home on the morning of March 26, 2016, and told the call taker he had killed his girlfriend and tried to kill himself.
The Crown has said it expects to call about 40 witnesses.
The trial resumes Friday.
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Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version had an incorrect date for Kristin Johnston's death.