Alberta top court downgrades murder convictions in quadruple homicide case
Calgary – Alberta’s top court has downgraded two convictions in a high-profile case involving the torture and killing of a man and the deaths of three others from first-degree to second-degree murder.
The Alberta Court of Appeal released the decision Friday in the cases of Tewodros Kebede and Yu Chieh Liao over the killing of Hanock Afowerk.
Afowerk’s body was found in a ditch outside Calgary in July 2017. He had been bound, beaten, strangled and shot.
Three other bodies were found in Afowerk’s burnt-out car at a suburban construction site. No murder charges have been laid in those deaths.
Court heard that Afowerk’s death was the culmination of a plot to kidnap him and extort him for money. The jury agreed with the Crown that Afowerk’s killing had been part of the plan from the start.
But the Appeal Court said the trial judge failed to explain that while the kidnapping and beating had clearly been planned, Afowerk’s killing may not have been. It suggested the defendants may have not have been recruited to kill him.
The Crown relied heavily on a text message sent by Kebede before the killing, which read: “U up for the job tonight?”, as evidence of planning. But because the recipient of that message didn’t testify to it, the Appeal Court concluded its meaning was unclear.
The court gave the Crown the choice of retrying the case or substituting second-degree verdicts. It chose the latter.
The court dismissed the defendants’ application for a new trial
“Following the trial judge’s instructions, the jury must have found by their verdict that both appellants actively participated in the murder of Mr. Afrowerk,” the Appeal Court said in its written judgment.
“Both would therefore be properly convicted of second-degree murder. Accordingly, there will be no prejudice to the appellants if we substitute the verdicts to reflect that fact.”
Kebede and Liao must now reappear before the trial judge for sentencing.
The change does not affect Kebede’s and Liao’s convictions involving the deaths of the other three victims.
Liao was found guilty of being an accessory in the murders of Cody Pfeiffer, Glynnis Fox and Tiffany Ear, whose remains were found in Afowerk’s charred car.
Kebede was convicted of being an accessory in Pfeiffer’s murder.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 23, 2022.
— By Bob Weber in Edmonton
Police investigating how shooter got firearm after autopsy and balistic analysis
News release from the Edmonton Police Service
Autopsy on shooter, ballistic analysis complete in line of duty deaths
An autopsy on the shooter and ballistic analysis of the firearm have been completed in the Mar. 16, 2023 EPS line of duty deaths.
The Edmonton Medical Examiner conducted an autopsy on Mar. 22, 2023, and confirmed that the 16-year-old male shooter’s cause of death was a single gunshot wound to the head consistent with being self-inflicted.
“We recognize that there is intense public interest in this investigation,” says EPS Deputy Chief Devin Laforce. “At this time, our priorities need to be the integrity of ongoing investigations, including the origin of the firearm, as well as the safety and privacy of all the families affected by this tragedy. For these reasons, we are not releasing or confirming the name of the deceased.”
A bullet casing recovered from the scene of a Mar. 12, 2023 shooting at a nearby restaurant in the area of 133 Street and 114 Avenue has been forensically matched to the firearm that was recovered at the 132 Street and 114 Avenue apartment, where Constable Brett Ryan and Constable Travis Jordan were fatally shot on Mar. 16, 2023.
Investigators believe the suspect in the Mar. 12 shooting to be the same 16-year-old male responsible for the deaths of the two EPS members, although this has yet to be confirmed. Detectives are also working to trace the origins of the firearm and how it came to be in the youth’s possession.
At this time, investigators continue to believe that the youth’s parents, police dispatch and Constables Ryan and Jordan had no information to suggest there was a firearm in the home when the family dispute call for service was made on Mar. 16.
“Both events have been served by robust investigations that have followed all lines of inquiry,” says Deputy Chief Devin Laforce. “All tips and other investigative avenues were pursued exhaustively by the investigating teams.”
The male shot on Mar. 12 in the restaurant remains in hospital in critical but stable condition, and the youth’s mother who was shot on Mar. 16 remains in hospital in serious but stable condition.
Search of four Edmonton homes results in Cocaine and Meth bust
News release from the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team (ALERT)
Cocaine seized after four Edmonton homes searched
More than two kilograms of cocaine, cash, and four vehicles have been seized following an ALERT Edmonton investigation into cocaine trafficking.
The investigation began in October 2022. Police were able to identify four homes and four vehicles linked to the drug trafficking operation.
“Through the course of this five-month investigation, officers were able to identify several suspects, and seized several pieces of equipment which were being used to produce large, commercial-sized quantities of product. This tells us that this was a much bigger, sophisticated operation,” said Sgt. Jeff Woodliffe, ALERT Edmonton.
On February 23, 2023, police searched four homes and seized the following items as evidence:
- 2.6 kgs of cocaine;
- 28 grams of methamphetamine;
- 10 kgs of a cocaine buffing agent; and
- $11,000 in cash.
The investigation remains ongoing as investigators prepare reports and disclosure for Crown Counsel.
The Edmonton Police Service assisted throughout the investigation.
Members of the public who suspect drug or gang activity in their community can call local police, or contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477). Crime Stoppers is always anonymous.
ALERT was established and is funded by the Alberta Government and is a compilation of the province’s most sophisticated law enforcement resources committed to tackling serious and organized crime.
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