Man charged with murder of Nighisti Semret, police still searching for motive

Above: Adonay Zekarias, 42, is charged with the murder of two Cabbagetown women, including Nighisti Semret who was stabbed to death on her way home from work. Lama Nicolas reports.

TORONTO – A 42-year-old Toronto man has been charged with first degree murder in connection to two deaths, including the stabbing of Nighisti Semret.

But police are still trying to figure out why Semret was targeted.

Semret, 55, was murdered in October 2012, walking home from her cleaning job at the Delta Chelsea Hotel. She was stabbed several times with a 20-centimetre knife in an alley off Bleecker Street in Cabbagetown.

Shortly after the murder, police released security camera footage which showed a man with an average build wearing dark clothing following her. The man had his hand in his pocket; police believed he was holding a knife.

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Police now suggest that man was 42-year-old Adonay Zekarias.

cabbagetown murder nighisti semret antoney zekarias
A handout photo of Adonay Zekarias. Credit: Toronto Police Service. Handout / Toronto Police Service

Zekarias has been charged with first degree murder in both Semret’s death and the murder of 28-year-old Rigat Essag Ghirmay, whose partial remains were found hidden in a bag in May.

Toronto Police Detective Gary Giroux said Zekarias was linked to the Semret murder by DNA. A sample that allegedly matches Zekarias was found under Semret’s fingernails, on an umbrella used by a bystander to stop the attack, and on her bag.

But Giroux admits he does not yet know what might have motivated Zekarias. At a press conference at Toronto Police headquarters on Monday, Giroux suggested they may have come across one another in the cleaning business.

“That would be a clear motive as to why he did what he did, but at this point I don’t have that type of information,” he said.

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The murder of Ghirmay may be connected to Semret’s murder, Giroux said.

“On the day that Mr. Zekarias murdered Ms. Semret, he returned home and interacted with Ms. Ghirmay,” Girou

x said. “He was bleeding, he sought medical treatment and Ms. Ghirmay was present for that and must have been interested in what happened to him.”

Giroux and Det. Sgt. Pauline Gray suggested that Zekarias may have allegedly murdered Ghirmay because she suspected a connection to the murder of Semret.

Semret, Ghirmay and Zekarias are all Eritrean immigrants to Toronto. Police admit Toronto’s Eritrean community is small and they all may have known each other.

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