Christina Voelzing's killer should serve 7 years, defence says

A man who fatally shot his ex-girlfriend twice in the neck during a fight should serve a seven-year sentence, his lawyer said Monday, arguing it was never his client's intention to harm her.

Behnam Yaali, 25, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in ex-girlfriend's death

24-year old Christina Voelzing was a week away from graduating from Algonquin College when she was fatally shot in 2016. (supplied )

A man who fatally shot his ex-girlfriend twice in the neck during a fight 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 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 between her former and current boyfriends.

Yaali pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter in January.

His lawyer, Neil Weinstein, told court at a sentencing hearing Monday that Yaali was looking for a confrontation with Hassan Khalid over 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 arrived at Voelzing's home in the early hours carrying a .22-calibre handgun to confront Khalid, who answered the door with a Colt .45 handgun, according to an agreed statement of facts filed in court.
Behnam Yaali, 25, has pleaded guilty to manslaughter. (courtesy of Ottawa police)

Yaali fired seven shots into the doorway, hitting Voelzing in her neck. She was taken to hospital and later died after being 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. Because Khalid had answered the door with a gun, there were some "elements of self defence," he said.

While Khalid had two prior convictions for firearm offences, Yaali had no history of gun violence, Weinstein noted.

'My sunshine was taken'

Yaali, wearing a black suit jacket and white shirt, his hair neatly trimmed, sat without expression in the prisoner's box.

Voelzing's mother, Sherryl Fraser, read one of of 14 victim impact statements. 

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.

Christina Voelzing's father, Scott Voelzing, described his daughter as "a positive spirit" whose death has left "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 Tuesday when the Crown presents its submissions