Man charged with 1st-degree murder after stabbing of pregnant wife, death of baby
Sofiane Ghazi had a prior arrest in June following an assault on his wife, but was then released on conditions
A Montreal man accused of stabbing his pregnant wife, who remains in hospital, and prompting the baby's death has been charged with attempted murder and first-degree murder.
The baby was born by emergency C-section following the stabbing of Raja Ghazi, 33, early Monday morning. The infant was in critical condition for several hours before dying in hospital. The woman was about eight months pregnant at the time of the attack.
Sofiane Ghazi, 37, appeared at the Montreal courthouse via video conference on Tuesday. Along with being accused of murder and attempted murder, Ghazi was charged with:
- uttering threats
- car theft
- armed robbery
- failure to comply with conditions from previous arrests.
The case has caught the attention of legal experts because the baby was in utero when the stabbing occurred and therefore not legally considered a human being.
But a representative from Quebec's director of criminal and penal prosecutions told reporters there are grounds for the murder charge because the baby was born.
Anne Aubé cited a section of Canada's Criminal Code, which says that "a child becomes a human being … when it has completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother."
Aubé acknowledged the case is "very rare."
Ghazi, who said little during his brief appearance today, will remain custody until his next court appearance on Aug. 25.
Charged with assaulting wife in June
According to his Facebook page, Ghazi moved to Montreal from Oran, Algeria, in 2012. It says he works at clothing retailer Lacoste and formerly worked at Stelpro, a heating, ventilating and air conditioning service located in Saint-Bruno.
His online interests show he's a fan of the soccer team Manchester United, as well as a number of Algerian sports teams. In one picture, he's wearing a skull mask — in another, he's posing with a young boy.
In June, Ghazi was arrested and charged with assaulting his wife. Around the same time, he was arrested for allegedly stealing perfume from a Jean Coutu pharmacy.
Neighbours in the building on Langelier Boulevard in North Montreal where the couple lived say the June incident was not the first time police had been called to the fourth-floor apartment. And it would not be the last.
The couple has two children and were expecting a third. When Ghazi was arrested in June, his wife would've been well into her second trimester.
Documents show that following his arrest at the time, he was released on conditions.
He was ordered to attend either Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous twice a week, in addition to therapy. He was living across town, away from his family, and was only allowed to be in the presence of his wife with her consent.
Court documents from 2011 show the couple started divorce proceedings, but abandoned them.
Police called on multiple occasions
Neighbours told CBC News they often heard commotion in the couple's apartment. One neighbour said it happened so frequently, he stopped calling police.
The most recent visit from police, prior to the stabbing, was around 10 p.m. on Sunday.
Police say Raja called police between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET Sunday, while her husband was out of the apartment. They urged her to flee with her children and go somewhere safe.
She sent her children to the home of a relative, and opted to stay in the apartment herself.
Neighbours heard screaming and yelling early Monday and police were called around 2:30 a.m. ET. Michel Leblanc and Noëlla Bernier, who live next door, said they saw Ghazi leave the building and shortly after his wife sought refuge in their apartment, bleeding profusely with holes in her clothing from knife wounds.
To anyone walking by, the only sign of the family's presence in the building was a child's pink bike on the fourth floor balcony.
The husband was gone from the apartment complex before police arrived. Police allege that around 4:30 a.m. ET, Ghazi's husband went into a convenience store about 10 kilometres away from the apartment building and threatened a clerk.
An 11-hour manhunt ended when he was found near the apartment and subsequently arrested.
The couple's baby was born during an emergency C-section following the stabbing.
The child survived for a few hours, but died around the same time Ghazi was arrested by Montreal police.
With files from Sudha Krishnan