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Nelson HART





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Parricide
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: August 4, 2002
Date of arrest: June 13, 2005
Date of birth: 1968
Victims profile: His three-year-old twin daughters, Karen and Krista Hart
Method of murder: Drowning
Location: Gander Lake, Newfoundland, Canada
Status: Sentenced to life in prison with no parole eligibility for 25 years on March 28, 2007

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Nelson Hart (born c 1968) is a Newfoundland, Canada resident who was convicted on March 28, 2007 of murdering his twin daughters in 2002.


Nelson Hart lived with his wife, Jennifer, and twin daughters, Karen and Krista, in the relatively isolated town of Grand Falls-Windsor, Newfoundland, Canada. Tammy Leonard, a social worker who was working the Hart family in the months leading up to the death of the twins.

She testified that the Harts were having chronic financial problems and were on social assistance. There was consideration on behalf of the social workers to remove the children from the family before they moved in with Jennifer Hart's father.

In June 2002 the family found themselves homeless again, and the possibility of the children's removal was revisited. By mid-summer the Hart family was living in an apartment and receiving regular visits from a new social worker, Carolyn Chard, who testified that Nelson appear increasingly angry with her presence. At no time did either social worker think that Hart posed any danger to his children.

Death of twin daughters

On August 4, 2002 Hart and his daughters traveled to the near-by area of Little Harbour on Gander Lake. Nelson returned home in a panic and said that Krista had fallen in the lake. Hart returned to Gander to get help, but when police arrived, Karen was dead and Krista was unconscious. The next day she was taken off life support.

Investigation and undercover operation

In the initial questioning Hart claimed that his daughter had fallen into the lake but months later changed his story to say, that being an epileptic, he had suffered a seizure and couldn't recall how the girls ended up in the water. He claimed that he lied to avoid losing his driver's licence.

By February 2005 the police hadn't made much more progress in the case, so decided to launch an elaborate undercover operation which would end up costing over CAD $400,000. It began with Hart being approached in a parking lot by an undercover agent, and eventually being asked to run a delivery for what he was told was an organized crime group.

Over a period of four months the agents would continue the operation and get closer to Hart, and led him to believe that he was becoming more accepted in the organization. After four months the supposed leader of the group asked Hart a question he was told would test his loyalty. It was at this time he was asked about the murder of his daughters, and with some detail described the scenario, eventually taking some of the agents to the scene of the crime.

The jury at the trial was able to watch the confession taped from a hidden camera in the hotel where Hart described the murder.

"This is just about the perfect murder," the officer said.

"It was pretty well-organized," Hart replied.

"You must be a thinker, eh?" the officer said.

"Sometimes it pays to be that way."


On June 13, 2005 Hart was charged with first degree murder, and his trial began on February 27, 2007. His lawyer claimed that Hart was intimidated by the undercover agents and made up the story to impress them.

Ultimately the jury did not believe this and other claims, and on March 28, 2007 gave the verdict of guilty, and automatically sentenced him to life in prison with the eligibility of parole in no less than 25 years. Hart did not testify in his own defense during the trial, as the judge refused to close the court to spectators during his testimony.


On April 11, 2007 Hart filed an appeal to the guilty verdict, claiming that the videotaped confessions were not admissible. It also claims that the judge should have closed the court to allow Hart to testify during the trial.


Hart murdered twin daughters, jury finds

Given automatic sentence of life in prison with no parole eligibility for 25 years

CBC News - Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Newfoundland Supreme Court jury has found Nelson Hart guilty of killing his twin daughters at Gander Lake in 2002.

Hart, sobbing, dropped his head and shook it as the jury in Gander returned its verdict on Wednesday on two counts of first-degree murder. The jury had deliberated for about 16 hours, beginning late Monday.

Hart, 38, was charged in 2005, almost three years after his three-year-old daughters, Karen and Krista Hart, drowned near a wharf on Gander Lake.

Justice Wayne Dymond gave Hart the automatic sentence for first-degree murder: life in prison with no parole eligibility for 25 years.

Hart's wife, Jennifer Hart, left the courtroom sobbing after the verdict was announced.

The charges followed an elaborate undercover RCMP operation in which Hart was led to believe he was working for a large, Montreal-based criminal organization.

In fact, he was dealing with a series of undercover officers, who testified that Hart — who was asked to make deliveries in cities across the country while picking up cash payments — came to regard the phoney mobsters as friends.

Only wanted to 'look like a big criminal,' Hart says

As guards escorted him out of the courtroom, Hart maintained — as the defence said since the trial started on Feb. 27 — that he made a false confession to impress people he thought were criminals.

"They told me I'd have my ribs broke. I had to make myself self look like a big criminal, just like they were," Hart told reporters.

The prosecution argued that Hart — a welfare recipient who lived in stark poverty — feared having his daughters taken by child protection workers.

The jury was told that social workers had twice planned to apprehend the children, on grounds that Hart and his wife were not able to provide food and shelter for the children. Court was also told that social workers did not suspect Hart of being a bad parent.

Hart's brother, Mervin Hart, had testified he had agreed to take in the girls and Hart's wife, but not Hart himself.

Court heard that Hart did not want his daughters to call his brother "Daddy."

Videotaped confessions key to prosecution

Two key pieces of evidence for the prosecution were videotapes of covertly recorded conversations Hart had with the officers.

In one, recorded in a Montreal hotel room, Hart told an undercover officer —who was posing as the boss of the criminal gang — that he had killed his two daughters and then lied to police about what happened when the twins died.

When the phoney crime boss heard Hart's confession, he told Hart, "It's pretty much a perfect murder."

Hart told the officer, "It was pretty well organized." He boasted to the phoney boss that he had been able to throw off the police investigation.

In another recording, made at Gander Lake, Hart showed an undercover officer how he pushed the girls into the water.

As well, the jury was told by an undercover officer that Hart confessed to the murders during a conversation in a Montreal bar. That conversation was not recorded.

Told undercover officer he lied

The court also heard Hart tell an undercover officer that he lied about having had an epileptic seizure at Gander Lake — one of two versions of the drownings that Hart gave police in 2002.

Hart initially said one of his daughters had fallen into the water and he left the other by the lake while he drove to get help. Hart said he did not enter the water because he could not swim. He drove back to Gander to get his wife, who also could not swim.

He later told RCMP investigators that he had had an epileptic seizure at the lake and that his daughters panicked and wound up in the lake.

Defence argued confessions were false

The RCMP organized the undercover operation, which launched in early 2005, when their initial interrogations with Hart went nowhere.

Hart did not testify in his own defence, although he had asked Justice Wayne Dymond for permission on Monday morning to testify without the public present. Hart had said stress from testifying could trigger an epileptic seizure.

Dymond turned down the request.

Hart's lawyer, Derek Hogan, had asked the jury to disregard Hart's videotaped confessions because Hart had a long history of lying in his life.

Undercover officers, none of whom can be identified because of a court order, said Hart was relaxed and friendly on the occasions when he made confessions. The defence argued that Hart feared for his life, and that the confessions were coerced.

Outside the courtroom Wednesday, Hogan maintained that Hart felt the threat of violence was real.

"One of the officers acknowledged the only way you leave a crime family is through witness protection or in a box if you're killed. So that was disingenuous or dishonest to say," Hogan told reporters.



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