In a packed courtroom in Oshawa, about one hundred family and friends of Arianna Goberdhan and Nicholas Baig sat on opposite sides of the courtroom as they listened to the horrifying details of the domestic murder of the 26-year-old soon-to-be first-time mom.
Goberdhan, who was nine months pregnant with the couple’s first child — a little girl who she was going to name Assara — was found dead in Baig’s parents’ home on Winville Road in Pickering on the night of April 7, 2017.
Baig, her estranged husband, was seen leaving on surveillance video and quickly became the prime suspect. The 25-year-old was arrested the following evening and was charged with first-degree murder. He’s been in custody ever since.
In January, Baig pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of second-degree murder, which comes with an automatic life sentence.
The question Madam Justice Jocelyn Speyer must decide is when he is eligible to apply for parole. The guidelines are between 10 and 25 years.
According to the agreed statement of facts, Baig and Goberdhan dated on and off for about six years prior to getting married in November 2016. Goberdhan was already pregnant with the couple’s first child.
Over the years, there were many fights and in 2014 and 2016, Baig was charged with domestic assault. In both cases, the charges were withdrawn.
At some point between November 2016 and March 2017, Baig and Goberdhan engaged in a hostile text message exchange where Baig wrote to Goberdhan and called her vulgar names.
He also wrote, “I really don’t want to be married to you,” “I want nothing to do with you or this baby anymore,” “I hope to god you stop breathing while you drive,” and “I hope you die delivering.”
Arianna sent screenshots of this text exchange to her father.
About a month prior to her murder, Goberdhan moved back in with her parents in Ajax but told them little about why she was separating from her husband.
Her mother Sherry Goberdhan told Global News outside of court, “We didn’t know the extent of the verbal or the physical abuse because she kept it hidden. I think she thought that she was so strong that she could change him, that she could make it better.”
On the evening of April 7, 2017, Goberdhan told family and friends she was going to pick up Baig at work and give him a drive to the home in Pickering where he lived with his parents.
She indicated that she was going to take her father’s car so she would have an excuse to leave when, in fact, Baig’s brother drove him home from work.
Goberdhan went to the house around 6:30 p.m. Her dead body was removed from the house later that night.
She called 911 at approximately 9:43 p.m. She did not speak with the call taker but could be heard saying to someone, “You have to let me go. You can’t keep me here. I have to go home.”
The call then ended abruptly.
The 911 operator called the number back immediately.
Goberdhan answered the phone and said “Hello.”
The operator told Goberdhan it sounded like she was having a domestic fight with a boyfriend. Goberdhan told the operator that she was and that she needed police to come right away.
When police and paramedics arrived, they found Goberdhan bleeding in Baig’s upstairs bedroom. She was naked from the waist down and was lying on a towel with blood on it. She had been stabbed 17 times to her head, face, neck and body.
Goberdhan was pronounced dead at the scene.
Goberdhan’s mother says the irony is her daughter worked with domestic abuse victims when Arianna attended Brock University.
“She would volunteer at a women’s shelter, the YWCA, so she knew. She knew, you know, it’s just — but she was the victim,” she said.
Crown attorney George Hendry is suggesting a parole ineligibility period of roughly 20 years, though 12 to 17 years is the more accepted guideline.
Hendry called it an “almost unprecedented murder, she was nine months pregnant, just 20 days from delivering.”
Forty-one victim impact statements were delivered during the sentencing hearing. Hendry said Goberdhan was “vibrant, intelligent and well-loved by everyone.”
Defence lawyer Monte Macgregor suggested 12 to 15 years before Baig is eligible for parole would be more appropriate.
Justice Jocelyn Speyer questioned Macgregor as to whether sentences for domestic crimes are making a difference.
“It is really troubling to hear case after case after case and you and the Crown and I know that this is just the tip of the iceberg. One more case. I mean, what do we do?” Speyer said.
Goberdhan’s family says they hope Arianna’s legacy is changing legislation for the murder of an unborn child.
“We could have had a C-section the day before her murder and this would be a healthy vibrant young lady who has been robbed of her life yet the justice system refused to recognize that this person deserved some kind of justice. We’re here today not just on behalf of Arianna but also for Assara. The law needs to be changed so that the next time, it’s recognized that this is a double homicide, not a single homicide,” said Goberdhan’s uncle Frank Pedinelli.
Baig will be sentenced in May.