CALGARY — A Calgary jury found two people guilty Thursday in the death of a man who court heard was kidnapped, held for ransom, tortured and killed when he was no longer of any use.
Yu Chieh Liao, who also goes by the first name Diana, and Tewodros Kebede were convicted of first-degree murder in the death of 26-year-old Hanock Afowerk.
The trial heard Afowerk was a petty criminal who made fake identification.
Two days before his remains were discovered by a rural highway west of the city, the bodies of three witnesses were found shot to death at a suburban construction side inside his burned-out car.
Liao was also found guilty of being an accessory in the deaths of Cody Pfeiffer, 25, Glynnis Fox, 36, and Tiffany Ear, 39.
Kebede was also convicted of being an accessory in the death of Pfeiffer, who jurors heard may have been asked to help dump Afowerk’s body.
The jury heard Fox and Ear, sisters from the Stoney Nakoda Nation, were living in the same apartment as Pfeiffer.
Jurors deliberated for nearly three days and more than 70 Crown witnesses testified during the six-week trial, which a prosecutor described as a “journey into the heart of darkness.”
Much of the prosecution’s case rested on the locations of the accused’s cellphones in July 2017.
The jury heard multiple people besides the accused were also involved in the deaths.
Pfeiffer, Fox and Ear died from gunshot wounds before they were set ablaze in Afowerk’s Chevy Cruze to destroy evidence. But no one has been charged with killing them.
Two days after their bodies were found in the car, a cyclist discovered Aforwerk’s body. An autopsy determined that he died from blows to the head, but he was also shot three times and there were signs that his neck had been compressed.
The jury heard Liao and Kebede went to the home of a friend whom Afowerk was living with on the night of July 9, 2017, in order to retrieve ransom they thought would be there.
The Crown argued that Afowerk was being held against his will at an auto body shop and lied to his captors about having the money.
“He wanted his ordeal to come to an end, but really there was no way out,” Crown prosecutor Brian Holtby said during closing arguments.
He said it’s believed Pfeiffer, Fox and Ear were killed because they were witnesses.
“None of their lives were going well,” said Holtby. ”Still, they were young people with the potential of living in a healthy way. That potential is gone forever.”
Lawyers for the accused argued that the Crown’s case had major gaps and did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt what happened.
Liao’s lawyer, Susan Karpa, argued that the evidence pointed away from her client and toward her co-accused.
The case is back in court on Jan. 10 to set a date for sentencing.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 12, 2019.
The Canadian Press