A man who fatally shot his ex-girlfriend twice in the neck during a fight with her-then boyfriend should serve a seven-year sentence his lawyer said Monday, arguing his client never intended to harm her.
Behnam Yaali, 25, was charged in April 2016 with second-degree murder in connection with the fatal shooting of 24-year-old Christina Voelzing in March of that year.
Police described the shooting as a case of a young college student getting caught in the crossfire of a gun fight between her former boyfriend Yaali and her then-partner Hassan Khalid.
Yaali pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter in January.
Yaali’s lawyer Neil Weinstein told court at his client’s sentencing hearing Monday that Yaali was looking for a confrontation with Khalid over derogatory insults sent over social media, but had no intention of harming Voelzing.
“It was his last intention to shoot Ms. Voelzing or any other unarmed person,” Weinstein told Superior Court Justice Lynn Ratushny.
The confrontation happened on March 26, 2016 at a townhouse apartment Voelzing shared with two friends in Bells Corners.
Yaali fired 7 shots
Yaali came to Voelzing’s home in the early hours that day carrying a .22-calibre handgun to confront Hassan Khalid, who himself came to the door with a Colt 45 handgun, according to an agreed statement of facts filed in court.
Yaali fired seven shots into and at the doorway, hitting Voelzing’s and perforating two arteries in her neck. She was taken to hospital and later died after she was taken off life support.
Voelzing was a “vulnerable victim who tried to prevent what happened between these two men,” Weinstein said, adding that was what made her death “so horrific.”
Weinstein said Yaali had been drinking, which contributed to his reckless behaviour and that Khalid had answered the door with a gun, so there were some “elements of self defence.”
While Khalid had two prior convictions for firearm offences, Yaali had no history of gun violence, Weinstein noted.
Yaali sat without expression in the prisoners box wearing a black suit jacket and white shirt — his hair neatly trimmed.
Voelzing’s mother, Sherryl Fraser, read one of of 14 victim impact statements read in court.
She stood clutching her daughter’s white teddy bear and sang the first line of the song, “You Are My Sunshine.”
“My sunshine was taken away from me,” Fraser said. She said her daughter constantly told her “Mom, there’s good in everyone. You just have to look beyond the surface.”
Voelzing was a week away from graduating from the victimology program at Algonquin College. She had wanted to work with offenders and their victims.
Fraser said her daughter chose the program because she wanted to be a “change maker” to help family and friends who suffer through “crimes like this.”
“I’m not a victim. I’m a mother who no longer has a daughter. My sunshine is over and it’s shadowed by darkness,” she said.
For his part, Voelzing’s father, Scott Voelzing described his daughter as being “a positive spirit” and with her gone he has “a heart-breaking void that will never be filled.”
“My shame and disgust [is] that I didn’t teach her the self confidence to avoid dangerous situations and dangerous men,” he said.
The sentencing hearing continues on Tuesday when the Crown presents its submissions.