Brandon man found guilty of murdering his wife before 2019 house explosion

A jury has found a man guilty of second-degree murder in his wife’s death before their home exploded in Brandon.

Robert Hughes was on trial in the death of his 63-year-old wife, Betty, charged with killing her before tampering with the home’s natural gas line in October 2019.

The home blew up. Hughes suffered serious injuries and was flown to Winnipeg Health Sciences Centre for treatment. 

The jury started deliberating the case on Thursday afternoon. They retired for the evening and resumed deliberations at 9 a.m. Friday, before announcing their verdict just after 2 p.m. 

As the verdict was read by the jury foreperson, there was an audible exhale and gasp from the gallery. More than 20 people watched as the verdict was given, including members of the family, police officers and lawyers.  

Hughes stood in the prisoner box, showing no emotion, after the verdict was read.

Robert and Betty Hughes had purchased the home not long before her death and the explosion. (Betty Hughes/Facebook )

The penalty for second-degree murder is life in prison, with parole eligibility ranging from 10 to 25 years.

After court Friday, defence lawyer Saul Simmonds said his client is “broken” and “sorely disappointed” in the outcome. He said Hughes was still processing the verdict. 

The family, many of whom wore pins in the shape of a puzzle piece that read “Betty,” declined to comment. 

The trial was heard in Manitoba’s Court of Queen’s Bench by Justice Scott Abel and 13 jurors.

The Crown and defence lawyers gave very different theories about what happened in the Hughes home the night of the explosion.

Simmonds, told the court this week that it was Betty who started an altercation in the home, and she ultimately stabbed herself with one of Robert’s utility knives as the couple fought in their kitchen.

The Crown, headed by Chris Vanderhooft, told the jury earlier in the trial that the couple had ongoing marital issues and Betty had planned to leave Robert. Vanderhooft said Betty put their Queen’s Avenue E. house up for sale and that was the last straw that led to Robert killing her.

A sentencing hearing will be scheduled in the new year.

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