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

Contents

Background

Nelson Hart lived with his wife, Jennifer, and twin daughters, Karen and Krista, in the relatively isolated town of Gander, Newfoundland, Canada. Tammy Leonard, a social worker, was working with 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 appeared 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 license.

By February 2005, the police hadn't made much more progress in the case, so they 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."

Conviction

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.

Appeal

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.

Sources

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