Calgary

1st murder victim tortured, other 3 fatally shot 'to eliminate witnesses,' jurors told

The first victim in a quadruple murder was kidnapped, held for ransom, tortured and shot. The next three were fatally shot "to eliminate witnesses," according to prosecutors as a first-degree murder trial began in a Calgary courtroom.

Tewodros Kebede, 27, and Yu Chieh Liao, 27, charged with murder and accessory after the fact to murder

Yu Chieh Liao, left, and Tewodros Mutugeta Kebede are taken into custody in Calgary on Oct. 10, 2017. (Postmedia Calgary)

The first victim in a quadruple murder was kidnapped, held for ransom, tortured and shot. The next three were fatally shot "to eliminate witnesses," according to prosecutors as a first-degree murder trial began Monday in a Calgary courtroom.

Tewodros Mutugeta Kebede, 27, and Yu Chieh Liao, 27, are each charged with first-degree murder in the death of Hanock Afowerk, 26. 

They also face charges of accessory after the fact to murder in connection to the killings of Cody Pfeiffer, 25, and sisters Tiffany Ear, 39, and Glynnis Fox, 36. Prosecutors say they were killed "to eliminate witnesses" to Afowerk's murder. 

The six-week jury trial got underway Monday, presided over by Court of Queen's Bench Justice Blair Nixon.

Evidence of restraint, torture

On July 10, 2017, the first three victims — Pfeiffer, Fox and Ear — were found dead in a burned-out car in the northwest Calgary neighbourhood of Sage Hill.

Afowerk, who owned the vehicle, was found dead two days later by cyclists west of Calgary where Highway 22 and Highway 8 meet.

His body showed evidence that he'd been restrained, tortured and then shot. 

Pfeiffer, Fox and Ear were killed because they were witnesses to Afowerk's murder, prosecutor Heather Morris said in her opening statement to jurors.

Left to right: Glynnis Fox, Cody Pfeiffer and Tiffany Ear were found July 10, 2017, in a burned-out car in Sage Hill, a new community on Calgary's northern edge. Hanock Afowerk, right, was found days later west of the city. (Facebook/Megan Snell/Calgary Police Service)

Panicked phone calls

On July 9, 2017, the day before the first three bodies were discovered, Liao met with Afowerk, who planned to sell her false identification, according to Morris.

After that meeting, prosecutors say, Afowerk was kidnapped by several people including Kebede and Liao and held for ransom.

According to Morris, evidence will show that at one point during the night, Afowerk called a friend and had her pack up identification and credit card printing equipment, as well as cash, which was then picked up by Kebede and Liao.

But later, Afowerk called his friend in a panic, saying $30,000 was missing from the bags. He then phoned another woman looking for the $30,000.

After he was bound and tortured, Afowerk was shot and his body dumped west of the city, prosecutors say.

Bodies in burned-out car

According to the Crown, Pfeiffer was present at both the killing and the dumping of the body.

Pfeiffer's friend received a frantic message from him on the morning of July 10 saying "things were not good" and he had to get out of Calgary.

Later that morning, investigators pulled the bodies of Pfeiffer, Ear and Fox out of the burned-out Chevy Cruze. The three had been shot.

Evidence will show Afowerk's blood was found in the Jeep rented by Liao that was also seen at the Sage Hill fire scene, according to Morris.

The Crown says that after the Cruze was set on fire, Kebede, Liao and another man fled the city, first to Edmonton and then east.

Kebede and Liao were eventually arrested in Toronto.

When Kebede was arrested in Toronto, police found a prescription belonging to Pfeiffer and ID belonging to Afowerk inside his vehicle, according to Morris.

Prosecutors also plan to present cellphone tower evidence that will place the accused at various scenes connected to the murders.

Defence lawyers Susan Karpa, who represents Liao, and Jeinis Patel, Kebede's counsel, will not get the chance to address the jury or call witnesses of their own until all of the Crown's evidence has been called. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary crime reporter

Meghan Grant is the courts and crime reporter for CBC Calgary. If you have a good story idea or tip, you can reach her at meghan.grant@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @CBCMeg.

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