Albert Ian Ohab yawned, smiled and interrupted the court proceedings a number of times during his sentencing hearing.
The 41-year-old was found guilty of second-degree murder in connection with the death of Melissa Cooper in 2016. The jury spent less than eight hours deliberating before returning with a verdict.
Cooper, a 30-year-old who was addicted to crack cocaine, was last seen on surveillance video on April 14, 2016 in the elevator of Ohab’s Toronto Community Housing building at 220 Oak St. where Cooper often visited friends. She was seen on an elevator with Ohab, a self-described habitual drug user, who testified in his own defence that he invited her back to his apartment because Cooper was looking for a crack pipe that night.
While she was there, Ohab testified she overdosed and he dismembered her body in his bathtub because he panicked. He testified that his own girlfriend had overdosed on fentanyl just a few months earlier and he was “operating under panic and fear.” Surveillance video shown at the trial captured Ohab taking Cooper’s remains out of the building in a shopping cart.
Cooper’s torso was found behind a butcher shop near Broadview Avenue and Gerrard Street East a few days later. Most of her remains were never found.
Crown attorney Bev Richards read out a victim impact statement written by Cooper’s mother, Michelle Ball. Ball said her daughter had an addiction but she never gave up on her. Ball said the murder has destroyed her and “watching her daughter in the elevator (on video) was like watching a horror story. I wanted to jump up and scream, ‘Run.'”
Ball also said Ohab’s self-serving testimony was delivered without a hint of emotion or remorse in his voice.
Alan Ball, Cooper’s father, said his daughter was taken away from his family “in the most vicious and cruel way you can imagine.”
As Angala Devaladares, Cooper’s former partner, read out her victim impact statement through tears, Ohab blurted out from the prisoner’s box: “What relation are you to her?”
Justice Suhail Akhtar snapped at Ohab.
“She’s a friend. Now stop talking,” Akhtar said.
Richards is asking for no parole eligibility for 25 years. She told Akhtar that Ohab has shown no remorse, has a substantial criminal record, has a pattern of violent behaviour and is unresponsive to treatment and probation orders. Richards said Ohab also poses a strong risk to society due to the prospect of rehabilitation being low. Richards told the court Ohab was on probation for forcible confinement when he killed Cooper.
Defence lawyer Philip Klumak argued that Ohab’s drug addiction issues have led to his criminal problems but said his client has been clean for three years. Klumak said he believes there is a prospect of rehabilitation.
Klumak argued for a period of parole ineligibility of 15 to 18 years to run concurrently with a sentence of six to eight years for dismembering the body. Richards reminded Akhtar the maximum sentence for doing an indignity is five years.
Akhtar told Klumak there is evidence that Cooper was beaten and said she was likely dismembered to conceal those injuries. She called the murder sophisticated, saying: “This man cut up her body, and they (police) couldn’t find any blood. He distributed her body parts to the effect two parts were only found.”
When Ohab was asked if he had anything to say before sentencing, he stood up and addressed the court.
“I did not want Melissa in my apartment that night. I did not intend for her to die. There’s a lot of propaganda today,” Ohab said.
“The only thing that was authentic was the mother’s statement. The thing about women is a misunderstanding.”
Many members of Cooper’s family walked out at that point.
Sentencing is scheduled to happen on April 24.