OTTAWA, CANADA — Ottawa police have charged a 35-year-old man who is an immigrant from Ethiopia with second-degree murder after a woman named Aster Kassa was fatally stabbed Saturday during a domestic dispute in a Riverside Drive apartment building.
Tamrat Gebere, the man who stands accused of stabbing the mother to death, will appear in court on Monday.
The victim’s baby girl was taken away by the Children’s Aid Society after a police officer held her under the shade of a tree as her mother’s death was investigated as Ottawa’s seventh homicide of the year.
Abdul Awad, the owner of a convenience store in the apartment building, said he saw the victim and her baby just half an hour before police officers came rushing into the building.
He said he will never forget the young mother, who he described as being in her mid to late 20s, and her baby.
“Never in my whole life have I seen someone so concentrated on just their child like that: not 99-per-cent concentrated; she was 100-per-cent concentrated on her baby,” he said. “She held her so close.”
Awad said he was taking a break from work when he sat down across from the victim and her baby in a lounge area in the apartment’s lobby.
He told the victim he thought her daughter was cute, but, he said, the victim didn’t respond.
She just continued to hug and kiss her baby, he said Sunday night.
“It looked like she knew something was going to happen to her and she wanted to spend all her time holding and loving her daughter.”
Awad said he saw police bring the baby, who he said looked to be about four to six months old, outside after they responded to her mother’s stabbing. He said he gave them water for the girl.
He said he is shocked and saddened by what happened.
“It’s a tragic thing. She obviously loved that baby so much and now she is gone,” he said. “If I remember one thing from my entire life, I will remember this, the first and last time I saw her.”
Awad said he had seen Gebere “once or twice” in the building before and that he seemed like a “quiet” guy.
Police could not say whether Gebere is the father of the baby, but said the victim and the accused were in a relationship.
“We’re not talking about a hitman situation here,” said Staff Sgt. Randy Wisker with the major crime unit. “It’s a very specific thing between these people.”
Police said Sunday they will not release the victim’s age or identity until they have notified her family. It is believed the victim had previously lived in Toronto, but her family lives outside of Canada.
An autopsy will be conducted today to officially confirm the cause of the woman’s death.
Police were called to the
24-storey building at 1541 Riverside Dr. about 4:15 p.m. Saturday receiving a 911 call from someone who does not live in the building.
Police said the woman was stabbed shortly before they received the call.
Police said the accused was arrested in the victim’s seventh-floor apartment without incident.
The day before the woman was killed, Sandy Medeiros said she heard yelling from what she believes was the victim’s apartment directly below.
“I’m sitting here feeling very, very guilty,” Medeiros said. “I was home the whole time as someone beneath us got (killed).”
Medeiros said she heard the baby girl crying off and on all day Friday after the arguing had stopped, but she didn’t hear any adults.
— Ellen Mauro, and Meghan Hurley | The Ottawa Citizen