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Police have upgraded charges to first-degree murder against a man accused of killing a 22-year-old woman and her 14-year-old brother on Christmas Day.

The change came after police examined evidence in the Rexdale apartment where the bodies were found on Boxing Day. Nana Yaw, 27, had originally been charged with second-degree murder after he turned himself in to police Thursday morning. He is also charged with one count each of attempted murder and forcible confinement.

On Wednesday evening, 16-year-old Tommy Zois, who had been held in the apartment where his siblings were killed the previous day and was suffering multiple stab wounds, managed to escape and led police to the bloody bodies of his sister Iliada and brother Jamie in a Kipling Avenue high-rise, said Detective Sergeant Gary Grinton of the Toronto police homicide squad.

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While police identified Mr. Yaw as Ms. Zois's common-law spouse, friends said her difficult relationship with Mr. Yaw had been over for months. They said she moved in with him two or three years ago to escape a strained relationship with her mother, who was involved with a man with an extensive criminal past.

Alex Mulyar, who dated Ms. Zois in high school and reconnected with her in recent months, said her relationship with her mother, Sandra, was "pretty good" when he met her, but that changed when her mother began dating Eric Kusi.

According to the Ontario Provincial Police, Mr. Kusi remains in custody after being convicted in July, 2006, of several charges including assault, pointing a gun at a woman and failing to stop for police. Mr. Kusi arrived in Canada as a Liberian refugee in 1989 and after three years had racked up nearly 40 convictions, police said.

Ms. Zois often argued with her mother and Mr. Kusi in high school and expressed her desire to leave the house, said Mahamoud Hossain, who befriended Ms. Zois 10 years ago.

Yesterday evening at her Scarborough home, Ms. Zois's mother said she did not want to talk about the death of her children, saying she just wanted them to rest in peace.

Ms. Zois was still not pleased with her living situation after moving in with Mr. Yaw, Mr. Hossain said. He said she told him in August that she had been "unhappy" with her relationship with Mr. Yaw and had broken up with him months before.

Sherold Philibert, who met Ms. Zois in August, said she told him she had broken up with Mr. Yaw, but continued living with him in their Rexdale apartment because she was afraid to leave.

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Mr. Philibert said Ms. Zois spent more than 100 hours a week at two jobs.

"From what I got from her, I think she worked so much because she didn't want to be home," he said.

He was concerned for Ms. Zois's safety because in her phone calls to him, she said her ex-boyfriend often followed her in his car and called her multiple times a day to see where she was.

He said Ms. Zois told him not to visit her at her apartment or call her. "She showed me her address on [Canada 411]but said not to visit ever. She said she didn't want a conflict," he said.

The last time he heard from her, three days before her death, he said Ms. Zois had told him she planned to move out. He said she had begun packing boxes and looking for furniture.

Mr. Hossain said he had been talking with Ms. Zois about moving into a Scarborough apartment together in the summer.

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"I just feel so responsible now," he said. "Maybe if we'd moved in together earlier..."

Mr. Yaw was unable to attend his bail hearing yesterday because he was still in hospital undergoing a second operation for stomach stab wounds, Det. Sgt. Grinton said. He is scheduled to appear in court via video teleconference from a Thunder Bay detention centre on Jan. 11.

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