Moti Ayana says he is still in shock after learning his girlfriend Bethelhem Geleta was murdered three weeks ago, but even more difficult for him to comprehend is why his roommate and friend of nine years, Aboma Daba, allegedly killed his girlfriend before killing himself.
“I don’t have any words — it’s very painful,” Ayana told Global News.
Ayana said Geleta, whom he had been dating for about six months and who had just been accepted as a conventional refugee from Ethiopia, was excited about celebrating her 22nd birthday on Oct. 26.
The couple planned on throwing a small party that night at the Davisville Avenue apartment they shared. When Ayana could not get a hold of Geleta or Daba that morning after going to work in Scarborough, he said he decided to drive home to find out why he couldn’t reach his girlfriend.
He said he called Toronto police on the way and when he got home, Ayana accompanied officers and went into the apartment to find Geleta inside Daba’s room. She was lying on the floor. Daba was also inside the room and gasping for air. Daba had blood on his neck. They were both rushed to hospital in critical condition and later died.
An autopsy revealed Geleta had been strangled to death and Daba slashed his own throat. Police said there are no outstanding suspects and are treating it as an apparent murder-suicide.
Ayana said just a few days before the tragedy, the three of them were sitting in the living room of the apartment they shared when Daba told him that he was in love with Geleta.
“That week, I think on Tuesday or Wednesday, he mentioned he’s in love with her and he said, ‘Apologize.’ What you do if somebody asks you to apologize?” Ayana said, adding he didn’t know why Daba wanted him to apologize.
He asked his girlfriend if she loved Daba and said she replied, “‘He’s my brother.’ She said, ‘I love you.'”
Ayana said he told Daba that he and his girlfriend had to find a new place to live and wanted to be out by the end of October. Daba, he explained, said that he needed more time to move out but otherwise he seemed fine and not upset. Ayana said he never suspected Geleta and Daba, who had lived with them for the past four months, were romantically involved.
He also explained how on Thursday night, just two days before Geleta was murdered, she told him that Daba had threatened to kill her if she ended the affair. But because that threat was made before the three had a conversation about the affair, and Daba seemed normal when it ended, Geleta did not take it seriously.
“He said to her, ‘I love you, so we have to stay together but if you are not staying with me, I’m going to kill you and I’m going to kill myself,'” Ayana recalled.
He said he suggested they report it to police, but Geleta told him it was normal and not to worry. Ayana said he also did not notice any signs or symptoms of his roommate being upset and because he did not hear the threat himself, he was not sure if it was credible.
Toronto Police Homicide Squad Det. Paul Worden offered this advice to anyone who is threatened or who hears about a death threat second hand.
“Take all threats seriously. There’s no harm in doing that. The consequences, as in this case, can be catastrophic if you don’t,” he said.
“Sometimes the people involved in the incident don’t have a clear objective view of the severity of the threat. Call the police in, let us evaluate it and we can make recommendations to you. Sometimes a set of objective eyes can add more clarity to the situation for the involved parties.”
Ayana said in hindsight, he wished he had called police sooner. Now he is mourning for the young woman who was just starting a new life in Toronto. Geleta was studying English as a second language and aspired to become a make-up artist.