A man accused of stabbing and bludgeoning a 13-year-old girl to death in his bedroom, then stuffing her body in a garbage bag and dumping it in a yard, was convicted Monday of first-degree murder.
But before convicting Rafal LaSota of killing Aleksandra Firgin-Hewie in 2008, jurors acquitted his co-accused, then-girlfriend Michelle Liard, prompting courtroom gasps.
“I'm exonerated, I feel very happy, thank you very much,” Ms. Liard said outside court.
Ms. Liard's lawyer, Daniel Brodsky, added she was happy “for the right reasons.”
“She was found not guilty of a crime she really was innocent of,” Mr. Brodsky said.
“We agonized while the jury was out so long, and we're just incredibly relieved.”
Some spectators jeered Ms. Liard in the parking lot as she left the courthouse.
The victim's grandmother, Haliana Firgin, told reporters outside court that the family found little comfort in the verdict. She said she still couldn't understand why none of the people in the house when the girl was killed — and suspected something was amiss — called 911.
“They did nothing, and we have to live with that as well,” she said.
“We were hoping that her silent scream for justice would be answered, but was not.”
Aleksandra started hanging around with Mr. LaSota and Ms. Liard, who were 25 and 19 at the time, after she moved to Mississauga, Ont., from Port Perry, Ont in the summer of 2008.
Evidence was that Mr. LaSota attacked the teen in his bedroom, stabbing her 37 times with a knife in the neck and upper torso. She had several defensive wounds on her hands and arms.
Six of the knife wounds would have been fatal, the trial heard, including two that severed her jugular vein and carotid artery.
Mr. LaSota's DNA was found under her fingernails.
He later told his mother he had killed a girl, but said it was an accident.
Mr. LaSota's mother called police and they found two garbage bags behind the shed in the backyard, cut a slit in one and saw denim with pink or red material and flesh.
The judge had told the jury there was “no mystery” about who killed Aleksandra, but said they needed to consider if it was planned and deliberate, as well as what involvement Ms. Liard had.
At the start of the trial, Mr. LaSota tried to plead guilty to manslaughter, but the Crown rejected the plea and said it would prosecute them both on first-degree murder.
The defence argued the murder was not premeditated. Ms. Liard had said she didn't know Mr. LaSota was killing Aleksandra because she was outside at the time.
The trial had also heard how Ms. Liard once told Aleksandra “she wanted to experiment with her” and cut her “up into little pieces.”
When police searched Ms. Liard's home they also found a story she had written about a woman named Mischa — her nickname — and her boyfriend Rafal picking up a hitch-hiker, confining her at a motel and stabbing her to death.
What they jury didn't see were some of Ms. Liard's other writings, which reportedly suggested an intense fascination with vampirism and blood, as well as a suggestion that she might have had a sexual attraction to the victim.
Mr. LaSota faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison with no parole eligibility for 25 years.