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New Minas man gets jail time for killing friend with a hammer

Nikolas Derrick Salsman is led from Kentville Supreme Court Friday after being sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for manslaughter in the 2017 death of a friend.
Nikolas Derrick Salsman is led from Kentville Supreme Court Friday after being sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for manslaughter in the 2017 death of a friend.

A 32-year-old New Minas man has been sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for killing a friend with a hammer in an altercation almost two years ago.

Nikolas Derrick Salsman had originally been charged with second-degree murder in the September 2017 killing of Trevor Pelton, but pleaded guilty to the reduced charge of manslaughter in April.

The sentence was a joint recommendation from the Crown and defence.

Court heard from an agreed statement of facts that Salsman and Pelton had been out together at 12:30 a.m. on Sept, 24, 2017, when they were involved in a crash and Salsman's van was towed. The pair returned to Salsman's parents' home on Lockhart Drive in New Minas in the tow truck shortly after 5 a.m. and parted ways.

A while later, Crown Attorney Bill Fergusson said, Salsman was outside smoking when Pelton appeared with a garbage bag of cut marijuana, asking if Salsman would store and dry it .

Salsman refused but provided Pelton with a backpack for the marijuana. He told police that an argument broke out and Pelton pulled out a knife, slashing toward Salsman's face or neck, and that as he raised his hand in defence he was cut on the thumb with a knife,

Salsman said he fell backward, saw the hammer by the wood pile and picked it up, and when Pelton lunged at him again he hit him several times with the tool.

He told police that as the friends grappled, Pelton stabbed or sliced him twice in the back of the leg, cutting him three times: twice in the leg and once on the hand by his thumb.

Salsman hit Pelton each time he came at him until he dropped to the ground.

Salsman grabbed a hammer off a nearby wood pile, striking Pelton several times. The medical examiner said there were at least 10 strikes, and 17 wounds.

The information about what happened after Salsman arrived home came from his comments and statement to police after his arrest.

Salsman moved the body and wrapped it in a blanket, and went into the home and asked his mother to take him to hospital because he had been hurt in the car crash. He received stitches to close the wounds.

Salsman's father later went to pick up his son from the hospital, and after returning home found Pelton's body and called 911.

When police arrived, Salsman came out of the house and said he had hit Pelton in self defence, and was arrested.

In her victim impact statement read to the court, Pelton's sister, Amanda Kelly, recounted her aunt and a police officer arriving at her door.

“The pain I felt that day is still felt every day,” she said.

She said she feels like part of her childhood has been “ripped away”, and that “I hurt so much.”

Another sister said in her statement, which was read by a friend, that she wanted justice to be served so when her three-year-old son can grow up and know that the system works.

Allyson Murphy Curran said that she knew her brother had issues to deal with.

“He was an addict, but he was a good person,” he statement read. “He had demons to beat, but he didn't get the chance to beat them.”

Pelton's aunt, Catherine Balch, said the months since Pelton's death have been the hardest of her life.

“I go to bed trying not think about him, but I think about him,” she said.

“His hugs were the warmest, and his 'I love yous' were the sincerest.”

Defence lawyer Patrick MacEwen stressed that Salsman's actions were a case of self defence, and said while there were at least 17 wounds noted in the autopsy, the medical examiner said that some could have been multiple wounds from a single blow, like a laceration, skull fracture and brain injury.

Outside court, he said Salsman has always been prepared to plead to manslaughter. The case took longer than it might have otherwise because Salsman's original lawyer was retiring and gave up the case.

“He didn't intend to kill Mr. Pelton, it's unfortunate that's what occurred,” he said.

He said his client was accepting of the sentence, and “he's aware that's probably the appropriate sentence for what occurred.”

Fergusson declined comment after court.

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