TORONTO – A Toronto man lured a woman into his apartment where he killed her, cut her body into pieces and dumped them in the trash in an effort to cover up his crime, prosecutors alleged Monday.
Crown attorneys said it may never be known just how Melissa Cooper died or what motivated the killing, but they argued Ian Ohab was the one responsible for her death.
Ohab ran into Cooper in the elevator of his building as she was looking to purchase crack cocaine and the two of them returned to his apartment, court heard. She stopped using her cellphone shortly afterwards and was never seen alive again, court heard.
“Ian Ohab murdered Melissa Cooper and spent days dismembering her body to hide from police what he had done,” prosecutor Bev Richards told jurors in her closing remarks. “He cleaned her blood from the walls of his apartment, disposed of his furniture, clothing and Melissa’s cellphone.”
Defence lawyers, however, said the evidence against their client is circumstantial.
Cooper, 30, was reported missing by relatives in April 2016 after she failed to show up for dinner with her grandmother or answer her phone. Court heard she was last seen alive on security video from a building where she was visiting a friend.
Her lower torso was later found behind a Toronto butcher shop and one of her arms was found at a recycling plant, court heard.
Ohab has admitted he cut up her body but said she died of a drug overdose in his apartment. He has pleaded guilty to causing indignity to a body but pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder.
Defence lawyer Philip Klumak told the court in his closing arguments there is no evidence his client killed Cooper.
He said Ohab passed out after using heroin and woke up to find Cooper dead, which made him panic. While under the influence of drugs, Ohab decided to dispose of her body, he said.
Ohab first sought to dump her body in a stairwell but a neighbour appeared, Klumak said. Ohab then decided to purchase a saw from a hardware store and dismember her body to make it easier to dispose of, the defence lawyer said.
Ohab did not want to call paramedics because his girlfriend had died from a fentanyl overdose in his apartment just three months earlier and it had sparked an investigation, an experience he did not wish to repeat, Klumak said.
“It all became about him – what he’s feeling, what he doesn’t want to go through again,” the lawyer said.
“It was not an unreasonable choice for him … Imagine how backed into a corner he must have felt.”
Prosecutors said Ohab’s account of what happened that night makes no sense, and argued he lied to Cooper to get her into his apartment and then attacked her.
Cooper was wandering the halls in an effort to purchase crack for herself and a friend who lived in the building, they said.
Ohab’s testimony that she asked to come over to use his pipe doesn’t square with the fact that she was a frequent user who would have had her own or been able to use her friend’s, the Crown said. What’s more, Ohab did not have a crack pipe and the pair ended up having to craft their own makeshift ones, prosecutors said.
It also seems unlikely that Ohab would have left Cooper alone in his home for 15 minutes while he went to purchase heroin, as he testified, prosecutors said. They also noted Ohab changed his clothes before going on his errand and locked the door with Cooper inside.
They also said Ohab denied Cooper’s DNA was in his apartment but a forensic biologist found her blood under the bathroom tiles and in several other places.
Crown attorneys said photos from Ohab’s apartment show he got rid of a lot of furniture, including a rug and couch, by the time police came to search his home weeks later.
Court heard forensics experts found cocaine and alcohol in a muscle sample taken from Cooper’s remains, but could not say how much of each substance was in her system or when they had been consumed, noting blood or urine are required for toxicology testing.
Nor could they say how she had died, given how few of her remains have been found, court heard. The forensic pathologist who performed Cooper’s autopsy testified they could not examine the rest of her body for signs of potentially fatal trauma or sexual assault.
The forensic pathologist did notice extensive bruising on her lower torso, however, and said blood circulation is required for bruises to form, court heard. A friend with whom Cooper had sex earlier on the evening of her disappearance said he did not see bruises on her body at that time, court heard.
The judge is expected to give his final instructions to the jury on Wednesday.
© 2019 The Canadian Press