Miika the German shepherd likely trapped guarding dead bodies for days, jurors hear

Miika the German shepherd paced between two dead bodies she had likely been guarding for days as police officers entered what they believed to be a murder scene back in October 2015, a Calgary jury has heard.

Selma Alem and Julie Tran found dead in northeast home in October 2015

Selma Alem, left, and Julie Tran were found dead in Alem's home in October 2015. (Calgary Herald/Family photo)

Miika the German shepherd paced between two dead bodies she had likely been guarding for days as police officers entered what they believed to be a murder scene back in October 2015, a Calgary jury heard Tuesday.

The first responders who testified Tuesday described the dog as initially aggressive when they were outside the home, but said she became scared, cowering once they made their way inside.

The officers' evidence was given at Emanuel Kahsai's murder trial. Kahsai is accused of killing his mother Selma Alem, 54, and a disabled woman she cared for, Julie Tran, 25. When friends couldn't reach Alem over the weekend of Oct. 16, 2015, they called police. 

On Oct. 19, 2015, Const. Ryan Goddard — the first officer on scene — peeked through Alem's window to see Miika frantically barking and what appeared to be two bodies at the base of a blood spattered wall.

When backup arrived, the officers went in through the unlocked side patio door. While police made efforts to preserve and secure the scene, they were also trying to care for the frantic dog.

Inside the house, Miika cowered and paced back and forth between the bodies and the door, said Const. Jocelyn Woynar.

Miika likely in house 'a long time'

The officers coaxed the dog away from the two women, and Woynar offered her a scoop of dog food, which she gobbled down "very, very quickly."

Woynar said she used a second scoop to lure the pup outside, where the dog immediately relieved itself.

Once outside, Const. Stephen Kelly said Miika "immediately calmed down." 

"The poor thing must have been in the house for a long time," said Kelly, who described the situation inside as a "traumatic scene." 

Dried blood stained the wall, floor and victims' faces. "It appeared the scene was a few days old," said Kelly.

Emanuel Kahsai is brought into the Calgary police processing unit by Det. Mike Cavilla, left, and Det. Dave Sweet, right, after his arrest. (Meghan Grant/CBC)

Alem lived as a "supportive roommate" with two disabled adults — Tran, who died alongside Alem, and Darrel Beaumont, a man in his 50s who has significant mental disabilities after suffering brain injury as a child.

Court heard Tuesday that officers found Alem's home in an immaculate condition but for one unmade bed. Beaumont, who was at work the day the bodies were discovered, is expected to testify later in the trial as a Crown witness. 

Kahsai has been removed from the courtroom and is watching and listening from another room. The 32-year-old is representing himself, but each time he is given the chance to cross-examine a witness, he shouts requests for the U.S. Army and FBI to be contacted.

Justice Glen Poelman has ordered Kahsai muted and taken off closed-circuit TV screens in the courtroom so that he is not a distraction for jurors.

Kahsai threatened to kill mom, says Crown

On Monday, the first day of the trial, court heard evidence that Kahsai had made death threats in the days before his mother and Tran were killed.

He was arrested in Edmonton hours after the bodies were discovered. He was wearing shoes stained with both women's blood, and their DNA was also found on the floor mat of Alem's SUV and in the pocket of a pair of Kahsai's jeans. 

Kahsai is charged with first-degree murder in the death of his mother and second-degree murder in the death of Tran.

Both died after suffering several knife wounds to their necks, face and bodies, according to prosecutors Todd Buziak and Matt Dalidowicz.


Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary crime reporter

Meghan Grant is a justice affairs reporter. She has been covering courts, crime and stories of police accountability in southern Alberta for more than a decade. Send Meghan a story tip at or follow her on Twitter.