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OTTAWA — The trial of a Canadian soldier who has pleaded not guilty in the fatal 2013 stabbing of his wife heard Friday from a restaurant employee who discovered the victim’s vehicle after she was reported missing.

Howard Richmond, a warrant officer in the Canadian Armed Forces, has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of his 28-year-old wife Melissa. Crown lawyers say he was upset that she was having an affair.

Richmond’s defence team is arguing he should not be held criminally responsible due to post-traumatic stress disorder, the result of multiple deployments in Bosnia and Afghanistan.

Bruce Sass testified in Ontario Superior Court that he immediately contacted police when he spotted the missing woman’s car in the parking lot of the Denny’s restaurant in south Ottawa where he worked.

After her body was discovered in a nearby ravine, Sass found himself exchanging Facebook messages with the man who would ultimately be charged in her death.

“I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am,” Richmond said in the message. “Without you, she still might not be found.”

Richmond, clad in a light blue dress shirt, betrayed little emotion as he listened to the proceedings from the prisoner’s box.

Sass described how the accused even offered to set up a meeting in order to thank him for locating the vehicle.

“I would like to give you a piece of Melissa’s jewelry for your daughter so she knows how you have touched the hearts of my family,” Richmond wrote.

In his Facebook reply, Sass described being heartbroken to learn about her death.

“I grieve alongside you,” Sass said.

“I want justice served … I am going to try to attend the candlelight vigil in Winchester … tears are welling up big time.”

Richmond later admitted to killing his wife with a knife and a screwdriver, but has pleaded not guilty in the death.

The trial has yet to explore psychiatric evidence, but Richmond’s lawyers are expected to focus on his psychological condition. He was first diagnosed with PTSD in 2011.

The trial is expected to last for several weeks.

Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press

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