A Toronto man who killed and dismembered a woman then dumped her remains in the garbage has been sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 22 years.
Ian Ohab was convicted in January of second-degree murder in the death of Melissa Cooper, a 30-year-old woman last seen alive in his company.
Ohab had admitted he cut up Cooper’s body three years ago and pleaded guilty to causing indignity to a body. But he denied killing her, saying she died of a drug overdose in his apartment and he dismembered her out of panic.
Prosecutors, meanwhile, had argued Ohab lured Cooper into his home while she was looking for drugs and attacked her, then dismembered her and tossed some of her remains in the trash in an effort to conceal his crimes.
Cooper’s lower torso was found behind a butcher shop in east Toronto and one of her arms was discovered on the conveyor belt of a recycling plant, but most of her remains were never found. An autopsy conducted on what was found could not determine what caused her death.
Second-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 10 to 25 years. Ontario Superior Court Justice Suhail Akhtar said he weighed a number of factors in his decision.
In a ruling released Wednesday, Akhtar said Cooper’s vulnerability due to her addiction, and the way Ohab treated her remains, were aggravating factors, as was the man’s “meticulous cleanup” of the crime scene.
The judge said he has no doubt Ohab dismembered Cooper not out of panic, but out of a desire to cover up the manner in which she died. Ohab also started trying to conceal the killing “almost immediately,” changing his clothes, buying a hacksaw to cut Cooper’s body and borrowing bleach to remove any blood residue, the ruling said.
“Disposing of Ms. Cooper’s body parts leaves an enduring emotional scar on her friends and family. They will never know for certain what happened to her in Mr. Ohab’s apartment,”said Akhtar. “They will never get to say goodbye. They have no idea of her final resting place. Their agony, despite their best efforts, will stay with them forever.”
Ohab’s lengthy criminal record is another aggravating factor, particularly his four convictions involving violence against women, the judge said.
While a 2001 assault on his sister and another woman can be considered a domestic incident, and a 2006 criminal harassment case involving the mother of his child can been viewed as a custody dispute, two later incidents have no such context, he said.
In a 2010 incident, Ohab followed a female neighbour and showed up at her work, eventually assaulting her on the street while claiming he couldn’t help himself because she was “so hot,” Akhtar said.
Four years later, he pleaded guilty to assault and forcible confinement after keeping a woman prisoner in his apartment for two days because he believed she owed him money, the ruling said. The woman had come over to use crack cocaine and drink alcohol but when she tried to leave, Ohab threatened to kill her while brandishing a knife and baseball bat, it said.
The judge said there is little to mitigate Ohab’s crimes.
“Although I accept that Mr. Ohab had a difficult childhood and became involved with drugs at an early age, there is no real link between Ms. Cooper’s murder and his drug addiction other than providing the backdrop for their meeting and the possible acceptance of Mr. Ohab’s invitation to go to his apartment,” he said.
Ohab continues to deny killing Cooper, Akhtar said, noting the 41-year-old wrote him a letter before the sentencing hearing “repeating his assertions that he should be seen as one of life’s victims.”
“Mr. Ohab’s lack of understanding of the events juxtaposed with his unenviable criminal record speaks volumes to his lack of prospects for rehabilitation,” Akhtar said.
At a sentencing hearing last month, Cooper’s relatives said her death has left them heartbroken and their lives will never be the same.