Alberta top court substitutes 2nd-degree murder convictions for Calgary man and woman
Tewodros Kebede and Yu Chieh Liao murdered Hanock Afowerk in 2017
Two Calgary killers are now guilty of second-degree murder after the Alberta Court of Appeal decided to substitute a conviction rather than send the pair back to trial.
Tewodros Kebede and Yu Chieh Liao were convicted of first-degree murder in the death of Hanock Afowerk following a trial in 2019. They were also found guilty of being accessories in the murder of three others who were considered witnesses to Afowerk's killing.
But last month, the province's top court overturned the pair's first-degree murder convictions, finding the judge gave misleading instructions to jurors about whether the killing was planned and deliberate.
The panel said the trial judge failed to explain that while the kidnapping and beating had clearly been planned, Afowerk's killing may not have been.
Afowerk's body was found in a ditch west of Calgary in July 2017. He had been bound, beaten, strangled and shot.
Evidence was presented at trial that Afowerk's death was the culmination of a plot to kidnap him and extort him for money.
3 witnesses killed
The bodies of Glynnis Fox, 36, Tiffany Ear, 39, and Cody Pfeiffer, 25, were discovered in Afowerk's burnt-out car at a suburban construction site in Calgary.
Liao was found guilty of being an accessory in the murders of all three while Kebede was convicted of being an accessory in Pfeiffer's murder. No murder charges have been laid in those deaths.
The appeal court decision does not affect the accessory convictions.
Now that the pair have been convicted of second-degree murder, they will be sent back to the trial judge for a sentencing hearing.
While Kebede and Liao will still serve life sentences, lawyers will now argue how long the two must wait before they can apply for parole.
A second-degree murder conviction has a parole ineligibility period of 10 to 25 years.