Trial begins for 3 men accused of killing Toronto music journalist Zack Noureddine
Zack Noureddine’s parents and brother have travelled to Toronto from Ottawa to attend the murder trial for the three men accused of savagely beating their son — a complete stranger to them — who was killed in an apparent robbery gone wrong in late 2015.
“Each time, when he comes to Ottawa to visit, I said, ‘You should be careful.’ When Zack decided to move to Toronto, yes I was scared and I was afraid and I said, ‘It’s a big city,” said his mother, Magda Khatib Noureddine, outside the superior courthouse on Tuesday.
Thirty-two-year-old William Cummins, 34-year-old Matthew Moreira and 28-year-old Patrick Smith are on trial for first-degree murder and robbery in front of a jury of six men and six women.
The first witness on the stand, 25-year-old Mitchell Conery, worked with Noureddine at a direct marketing company called Ovio.
“He was a key motivator. He was pretty phenomenal. He was a great guy,” said Conery.
When they finished their shift at 9 p.m. on Dec. 29, 2015, they headed to the Little Sister Bar north of Yonge Street and Davisville Avenue where they met with another co-worker and his girlfriend.
After having a couple of beers, Conery said he offered Noureddine a ride home and the two began walking to Conery’s car which was parked just off Yonge Street on Lola Road. Conery said as they were walking down the street, still wearing suits and ties from work, three men came out of an alleyway.
He said the first man took a swing and hit him on the left side of his head.
“It knocked the glasses off my head, my cigarette fell to the ground, (and it) knocked me to the ground,” Conery said.
He said as he hit the ground, a second man struck Noureddine, and that man stomped on his head. Eventually Noureddine also fell down and both men began attacking him.
“Zack was being stomped and kicked. He was being held by his arms, giving them free reign to throw punches,” Conery said.
He said he remembers the first suspect saying, “This is why you don’t talk s—,” but explained to the jury, “We didn’t say anything. In no way did we incite anything that proceeded.”
Conery said he can’t remember exactly what Noureddine was saying, but stated, “He was pleading for some humanity.” He said the third suspect stood over Conery and demanded his wallet — that’s when he realized it was an attempted robbery.
The attack ended when two patrons from St. Louis Wings rushed over. The suspects then ran off.
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He said Noureddine “wasn’t in good shape” after the attack.
“But he did stand up. He came towards me then he collapsed in front of me, at which point I yelled to the gentleman to call 911,” Conery said.
Paramedics arrived and rushed Noureddine to hospital where he later died of injuries sustained to his head.
The three accused sat in the prisoner’s box listening to the witness, showing little emotion, even when Noureddine’s mother started crying uncontrollably when hearing about the final moments of her son’s life.
Cummins and Smith both tried to plead to guilty to manslaughter and Moreira tried to plead guilty to attempted robbery. But Crown Attorneys Bev Richards and Mihael Cole rejected those pleas.
The trial will continue on after Tuesday.
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