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Sentencing hearing begins for Toronto woman fatally shot by roommate in 2021

Click to play video: 'The family of a North York woman shot to death by her roommate gave victim impact statements at a sentencing hearing'
The family of a North York woman shot to death by her roommate gave victim impact statements at a sentencing hearing
WATCH: As Catherine McDonald reports, Soreeysa Abdi was convicted by a jury of the Second Degree Murder of Leah St. Jean – Feb 5, 2024

Update: On Friday, Soreeysa Abdi was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 16 years.

The family of Leah St. Jean has waited three years for justice, after the 32-year-old was found dead in the North York apartment she shared with two friends. She had suffered two fatal gunshot wounds: one through her head, the other through her heart.

On Monday, St. Jean’s aunt told court that the two-month trial for Soreeysa Abdi, which ended with the jury finding Abdi guilty of second-degree murder last June, was painful due to the graphic evidence they viewed during the trial. Not only has the family suffered great loss, but they’ve also suffered emotional trauma, Bernice Reed said.

“Jan. 22, 2021, is the day our whole world fell apart. Coming home to hear the devastating news that Leah was murdered the night before, my first thought was, ‘This can’t be true,'” St. Jean’s stepmother, Karen Schreck, told the court.

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On Jan. 21, 2021, Toronto police were called to unit 908 at 500 Murray Ross Parkway where St. Jean lived with Abdi and Abdi’s girlfriend, Julianna Fodor. Fodor came home from work to find St. Jean face-down in the fetal position, next to the bed in the bedroom.

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The jury heard Abdi was picked up by police in Parkdale wearing clothing he was seen wearing on video surveillance leaving the Murray Ross apartment earlier that night. A car Abdi had access to was also located; in it was a handgun.

Abdi took the stand at trial and admitted he shot St. Jean, but said he was acting in self-defence. He told the jury the two were arguing and claimed St. Jean was armed. Only one firearm was found in the apartment. It was a prohibited 9 mm Lugar semi-automatic handgun. Abdi admitted he kept the gun at home fully loaded in his bedside table, and had kept it there for two years.

It took the jury only five hours to find Abdi, 29, guilty of second-degree murder.

Crown prosecutor Barry Stagg told Madam Justice Kelly Byrne it was an “execution-style killing” carried out in a domestic setting even though Abdi and St. Jean were not intimate partners, but they were living together. Stagg reminded the judge that St. Jean was unarmed when she was shot twice in the back. “Why she was shot is not known and indeed will never be known, the circumstances of her execution are profoundly aggravating,” Stagg said, and suggested a period of parole ineligibility of 17 years would be appropriate.

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Defence lawyer O. Benjamin Vincents told the court Abdi was raised by a single mother in a neighbourhood where criminal behaviour was normalized, and he failed to have a positive father figure in his life. Abdi started abusing substances as a means of coping and began to experience drug-induced psychosis and paranoia. Vincents said that he shows remorse for the death of St. Jean, whom he describes as a friend, and is now receiving treatment for his mental health.

Vincents said a more appropriate period of parole ineligibility would be between 10 and 12 years, saying his client had no reason to kill St. Jean and that he was hallucinating at the time of the offence. “Your Honour has ample evidence of mental health disorder and drug intoxication at the time of the offence,” Vincents said, saying his client was high on methamphetamine and fentanyl.

Adbi declined to give an elocution to the court when asked by the judge.

Byrne will deliver her sentence on Friday.

Click to play video: 'The murder trial for a North York man accused of shooting his female roommate to death begins'
The murder trial for a North York man accused of shooting his female roommate to death begins

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