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Guilty plea: Ex-boyfriend admits to killing Ontario woman after breaking into her home

Click to play video: 'Brampton man pleads guilty to murdering ex-girlfriend'
Brampton man pleads guilty to murdering ex-girlfriend
WATCH: Brampton man pleads guilty to murdering ex-girlfriend – Jun 25, 2024

Warning: This story contains graphic descriptions of physical violence. Reader discretion is advised.

Linval Ritchie showed no emotion in a Brampton courtroom Tuesday as the horrifying details about how he murdered his ex-girlfriend were read to a packed courtroom, including the victim’s family and friends. Vanessa Virgioni, 29, was stabbed to death after Ritchie broke into the Brampton basement apartment she shared with the couple’s seven-year-old son on June 17, 2022.

The facts were entered into the record after Ritchie pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder but guilty to the lesser charge of second-degree murder.

The court heard that just three months before Virgioni’s murder, Ritchie got out of jail after serving time for pleading guilty to a March 2019 incident for assault, break and enter and threatening death. The court heard he broke into Virgioni’s home and threatened her and her mother, saying he would shoot them in the head.

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Video surveillance shown in the courtroom captured Ritchie around 1:35 am on June 17, 2022, crouching down with a knife in his pocket outside the bedroom window where 29-year-old Virgioni lived on Alonma Crescent near Bramalea Rd. and Steeles Ave. After removing the screen, the security video showed Ritchie’s feet dangling in the air as he crawled into the basement suite. The sheath of the knife was left outside.

Thirty minutes later, Ritchie is seen on video walking away from the home wearing different clothing, carrying a black garbage bag. He was arrested in Hamilton the following day after police got a call regarding a suspicious person at a residential condo. Ritchie had stolen a car from a Canadian Tire parking lot and driven to Hamilton. When he was arrested, he lied about his name.

According to an agreement statement of facts read out in court by assistant Crown Attorney Tina Kim, in the early morning hours of June 17, 2022, the upstairs tenants heard banging and arguing before Virgioni could be heard saying “stop”. They also heard a boy crying.

Kim said that Virgioni’s son reported hearing screaming which woke him up. He saw his dad doing something to his mom’s head before hearing his father saying “you’re done.” Ritchie then told the boy to go back to bed and his mom yelled at him to run outside. The boy went back to bed hoping it was a nightmare.

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At 6 a.m., when the boy woke up, he went to the living room where he saw his mother’s lifeless body on the floor, with lots of blood around her. He yelled at her but she did not wake up so the seven-year-old ran across the street to a friends house and told them that his dad had killed his mom. The friends called 911.

Ritchie murdered Virgioni by trying to cut off her head. “She died from an incised wound to her neck which was a near decapitation,” Kim told the court. Virgioni also had multiple sharp force injuries to her neck, head, torso and extremities and significant defensive wounds to her hands, arms and lower extremities. Before leaving the apartment, Ritchie went to the washroom to wash off the blood before leaving through a side door.

The couple met each other in Grade 8. The court heard that there was a history of physical violence and threats in the relationship dating back to 2011.

In November 2011, after discovering a text conversation with another man on her phone while she was sleeping, Ritchie threw the phone and a metal shoe rack at her. Later, when she thought things had calmed down, he started driving erratically and threatened to kill them both, before striking her on the side of a face causing a bloody nose.

In March 2017, he punched Virgioni in the face while she was holding their son when she refused to show him her phone. Once she put the baby down, Ritchie choked her and threw her to the ground.

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In November 2017, during an argument, Ritchie pushed Virgioni against the wall, then choked her while pushing his thumb into her eyes. He then pushed her to the floor and banged her head against the floor.

In chilling audio recordings played out in court, Ritchie’s messages to Virgioni from March 2021 involved threats to cut off her head. He suspected she had been sleeping with his cousin while in jail.

Virgioni shared the audio recordings with a close friend and confided in that friend that she was terrified Ritchie would follow through on his threats. She was worried for her safety and the safety of her son but was afraid to say anything because she didn’t want to make him angry.

According to the facts, Virgioni did not report the audio records because she feared doing so might anger Ritchie and put her in more danger.

Click to play video: 'Brampton woman found dead with obvious signs of trauma apartment basement: police'
Brampton woman found dead with obvious signs of trauma apartment basement: police

The court heard in March 2022, Ritchie pleaded guilty to charges of break and enter and threatening death against Virgioni, her mother and the couple’s son from March 2019. Ritchie threatened to shoot them in the head. He had been in jail since May 27. 2021.

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When he was released from jail, after being sentenced to time served and two years probation, Ritchie contacted Virgioni through WhatsApp despite the fact there was a no-contact order. Virgioni told her ex-boyfriend she just wanted to co-parent with him and told him she had begun a relationship with someone else. On April 27, 2022, Ritchie made sexual advances towards her. She rebuffed him and threatened to block him if he didn’t respect her boundaries. He agreed.

Just two days before the murder, Ritchie contacted her again with a phone message and said he had questions about their son’s activities while he was in jail. He told Virgioni he wanted to talk to her in person and she told him she was too busy and directed him to his parole officer.

Outside court, Vanessa’s mother Connie said the guilty plea will never bring back her daughter.

Virgioni’s son who is now nine years old is still dealing with the aftermath of what he saw. “It doesn’t change anything. No matter what happens, my daughter isn’t coming back to me and my grandson will always be motherless. That’s the hard part. With all these intimate (partner) violence that’s happening, how many children have to go through this trauma and how many more women have to lose their lives,” said Connie Virgioni.

A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for November. Superior Court Justice Jennifer Woollcombe consented to defence lawyer Selwyn Pieters’ request for a mental health assessment at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Woollcombe is asking a psychiatrist to look into Ritchie’s psychiatric background in order to place his criminal conduct in context to assist her with sentencing.

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A conviction for second-degree murder comes with an automatic life sentence. The judge must decide on parole eligibility between 10 and 25 years.

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