CALGARY — Lawyers for a pair accused in a quadruple killing say the Crown has not proven what happened before a man’s body was discovered by a rural highway and the bodies of three others were found in his burned-out car.
Yu Chieh Liao and Tewodros Kebede have pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the death of Hanock Afowerk, described to jurors as a petty criminal who made fake identification.
Liao has also pleaded not guilty to being an accessory after the killings of Cody Pfeiffer, Tiffany Ear and Glynnis Fox, whose remains were found in Afowerk’s car by a suburban Calgary construction site on July 10, 2017.
Kebede has pleaded not guilty to being an accessory after the slaying of Pfeiffer, who the Crown said might have been asked to help dispose of Afowerk’s body.
Liao’s lawyer, Susan Karpa, said the Crown’s case was like an unfinished puzzle.
“All the pieces have to be inserted. You have been left with many missing pieces,” she said in her closing arguments Thursday. “Instead, you have been invited to surmise and speculate.”
The Crown’s theory is that Afowerk was kidnapped, held for ransom, tortured and killed when he was no longer of any use. His remains were found west of the city with his pants and underwear pulled down.
Prosecutors believe Pfeiffer, and sisters Ear and Fox — who had all been living in the same apartment — were killed because they were witnesses. No one has been charged in their deaths.
“This case has been a journey into the heart of darkness, and we have seen the horror that human beings can inflict upon one another,” prosecutor Brian Holtby told jurors.
He said Afowerk was killed “for no good reason other than monetary gain and perhaps an enjoyment in inflicting pain.”
The Crown’s case rested heavily on cellphone evidence that put both accused near key locations: where the victims lived, where it’s believed Afowerk was kidnapped, the autobody shop where prosecutors believe he was killed and where his body was dumped.
Karpa pointed out to jurors that no witnesses were called to testify about what happened on the night of July 9, 2017, and that there was no forensic evidence from the autobody shop or testimony from its owner.
The evidence points away from her client and toward her co-accused, Karpa suggested.
Kebede was “running the show” as the two suspects travelled across the country after the killings in a white Jeep that Liao had rented, she said.
Karpa noted Kebede lit a bag of clothing on fire in a Saskatchewan farmer’s field. She said his DNA was found in the Jeep, he was in possession of Afowerk’s phone, sliced-up bank card and driver’s licence, and he organized for Liao and a friend to help clean blood and vomit from the Jeep.
“They were aware that Mr. Kebede had a gun on him and they were scared,” said Karpa, who added there was no evidence her client had a firearm.
Kebede’s lawyer, Jeinis Patel, did not deny his client was involved, but said the Crown did not prove he played an “essential, substantial and integral” part in Afowerk’s forcible confinement and killing.
Both defence lawyers questioned the accuracy of the Crown’s cell tower evidence. They also pointed out that there were other people involved — at least one of whom fled the country — and argued that the Crown did not establish definitively when and where Afowerk died.
Jurors are to return to court Monday to receive final instructions from Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Blair Nixon before they deliberate.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2019.
Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press