Trial ends for murder of Queen’s alum Mark Ernsting

Justice for cancer researcher as killer is sentenced to life in prison 

A memorial for Dr. Mark Ernsting.
Credit: 
Wikimedia commons

On June 15, 24-year-old Calvin Nimoh was sentenced to life imprisonment without eligibility for parole after he was found guilty of  the first degree murder of Queen’s alum Dr. Mark Ernsting.

Dr. Ernsting graduated from Queen’s with a degree in chemical engineering in 1999 before earning a PhD in biomedical engineering from the University of Toronto. At the time of his death in 2015, he was happily married and working at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research.  

The trial for his 2015 death began in May, with Nimoh accused of first degree murder. The proceedings, which took place in the Ontario Superior Court, saw a defence which tried to use Ernsting’s sexuality against him and failed. 

Defence lawyer Charn Gill also told the jury that, when Nimoh stabbed Ernsting nine times in the back of his head and torso three years ago, it wasn't premeditated. 

Instead, Gill told the jury that the 132-pound Ernsting, who had no defensive wounds on his hands, arms, or on the front of his torso, propositioned Nimoh with sex, causing him to feel threatened. 

Nimoh’s state of mind when he killed Ernsting, the defence attorney told the jury, was vulnerable. Earlier in the day, Nimoh’s girlfriend broke up with him to pursue a lesbian relationship. According to the defence, this event triggered Nimoh’s childhood memories of abandonment and same sex molestation, meriting the lesser charge of manslaughter. 

Ernsting’s husband Robert Iseman rejected the accused’s claim that Ernsting propositioned him with sex, calling it a “blatant lie.” Crown attorney Lindsay Kromm agreed, presenting the jury with evidence that, 90 minutes before Nimoh killed Ernsting, he and an accomplice stabbed and robbed 69-year-old Glynis Brownsey. 

The first robbery, the Crown argued, made it likely that Ernsting’s death was a side effect of an attempted second robbery. 

As Ernsting’s family and friends remember his achievements and life, the cancer research community has honoured his commitment to science and innovation. 

The Fight Against Cancer Innovation Trust (FACIT), which funded Ernsting’s research, renamed its annual pitch competition the Ernsting Entrepreneurship Award. An inaugural Mark Ernsting Drug Discovery Memorial Lecture will be held in Toronto this fall. 

The Queen’s alum who spent his days growing plants, singing in a local choir and making cancer treatment less painful for millions, enjoyed evening walks in downtown Toronto. 

Meanwhile, the country mourns the loss of a mind dedicated to healing, a voice that created music and hands that loved to grow. 

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