'Cowardly' drug dealer who shot man to death over $15K gets 10 years in prison

A Calgary drug dealer who stole $15,000 from his victim and then shot him to death has pleaded guilty to manslaughter despite being charged with first-degree murder. 

Mohamad Rafih, 24, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in 2017 death of Timothy Voytilla

Timothy Voytilla was shot during what was supposed to be a drug deal in the northeast community of Tuxedo. Mohamed Rafih has pleaded guilty to manslaughter. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

A Calgary drug dealer who stole $15,000 from his victim and then shot him to death has pleaded guilty to manslaughter despite being charged with first-degree murder. 

Timothy Voytilla, 44, died in hospital on May 1, 2017, after he was shot in the chest by Mohamad Rafih, 24.

After Rafih was arrested, he was caught offering $50,000 if Crown's key witness would recant his story. He has since pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice.

As part of Friday's sentencing hearing, Voytilla's former wife and the mother of his children delivered a victim impact statement 

"You took a dad," Cori Rowbottom told Rafih. "Every day we struggle to accept Tim's death." 

'Lowest point in my life'

Rafih entered his plea after a deal was negotiated between defence lawyer Alain Hepner and prosecutors Katherine Love and Adam May.

When offered the chance to address the court, Rafih said he was ashamed. 

"My involvement in the drug subculture brought me to the lowest point in my life," said Rafih. "I took him away in such a cowardly way."

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Glen Poelman sentenced Rafih to 11 years, four months, which means he has 10 years left to serve. 

'Serious physical violence'

On April 30, 2017, Voytilla asked Rafih, his drug supplier, for $15,000 worth of meth. Although Rafih was unable to acquire the drugs, he lied to Voytilla and arranged a meetup in Tuxedo with the intent to steal the $15,000, according to the agreed statement of facts read aloud by May.

Rafih brought a .22-calibre revolver with him. After Voytilla's money was counted, Rafih shot him once in the chest.

Voytilla stumbled back to his car, where his friend had been waiting.

The friend drove him to the hospital, where staff tried to save Voytilla's life. He was pronounced dead just after midnight.

"This was not merely a drug deal that went bad," said Poelman. 

"This was a case where Mr. Rafih, knowing that he would be unable to do a drug deal, nevertheless elected to rob his victim of funds he knew would be coming and to cause him serious physical violence."

"It was callous disregard of the value and dignity of Mr. Voytilla's life."

'Tell them nothing happened'

Last year, Rafih pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice after he tried to bribe one of the Crown's key witnesses in his murder trial. 

Seven months after he killed Voytilla and despite a warning from the jail phone system that his call was being recorded and monitored, Rafih was caught offering the Crown's key witness $50,000 if he recanted his story.

"I'll give you $50,000, bro," Rafih says to the witness, whose name is now protected by a publication ban. "You'll come to court and tell them nothing happened, man, you hear me?"

Rafih pleaded guilty to a charge of obstruction of justice and in exchange the same charge was with withdrawn against his mother, who was in court for her son's guilty plea on Friday.

Syed Muhammad Uzair, 22, is also accused in Voytilla's death. Uzair is currently on trial for manslaughter and accessory to murder after the fact.

About the Author

Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary reporter

Meghan Grant is the courts and crime reporter for CBC Calgary.