March 31, 2009

Ethiopian man convicted of 2nd-degree murder in death of 20-year-old ex-girlfriend

Ethiopian man convicted of 2nd-degree murder in death of 20-year-old ex-girlfriend

31st March 2009, 4:33am

An Ethiopian man who said he was suffering from a psychosis when he fatally stabbed his girlfriend was convicted yesterday of second-degree murder.

Relatives of Arssei Hindessa's victim -- Ryerson student Natalie Novak, 20 -- were visibly outraged when jurors acquitted the killer of the more serious charge of first-degree murder.

"You're a natural-born killer, just like your father," snarled Novak's aunt, Georgia.

Hindessa's father was a warrior for independence in their homeland. Hindessa testified during his trial that he was tortured and scarred for life for his political activism in Ethiopia and suffered from a psychosis at the time he murdered Novak.

The jury deliberated for six days before rendering its verdict. A female juror was excused Sunday from deliberations after she exhibited signs of a mental breakdown.

Novak's father, Ed, was crimson-faced, while Natalie's mom wiped away tears as the verdict was announced.

The jury's finding meant it rejected Hindessa's story that he was suffering from a psychosis at the time and was therefore unable to form the intent to murder.

Justice Anne Molloy will sentence Hindessa on May 25. A second-degree murder conviction carries a mandatory life sentence with parole eligibility ranging from 10 to 25 years.

Hindessa's father was a co-founder of the Oromo Liberation Front, which fought for independence against another tribe in Ethiopia.

Hindessa described his horrific experiences of being tortured and sexually assaulted as an imprisoned student activist in Ethiopia.

Hindessa, 32, flatly denied he planned or thought of killing Novak on May 15, 2006. Novak was stabbed several times in the chest and had her throat slashed.

"Hindessa is a liar and a manipulator. He may have a mental illness, but it had nothing to do with the murder. When he killed Natalie Novak, he was not suffering from a psychosis or a delusion," Crown attorney Mary Humphrey told jurors in her closing address. "The murder was about anger and control. He gave six different versions of what occurred."

Hindessa was under a restraining order not to see Novak after being convicted of assaulting her.

In a statement, the victim's family urged the province to implement changes to stop the tide of domestic violence that takes the lives of 45 women and children every year.

SAM.PAZZANO@SUNMEDIA.CA

Toronto Sun

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