Accused killer of Ethiopian woman in Ottawa appears in court

OTTAWA, CANADA — A 35-year-old immigrant from Ethiopia who is accused of fatally stabbing a mother of a baby girl during a domestic dispute in a Riverside Drive apartment building appeared briefly in an Ottawa courtroom Monday before being ordered not to communicate with an 18-month-old child or another woman.

Tamrat Gebre, a short, stocky and balding man who stared intently from the prisoner’s box — where he stood with his arms crossed, wearing blue jail-issued coveralls — made his first appearance in court charged with second-degree murder in the Saturday killing of Aster Kassa.

Kassa, who witnesses said was seen clutching a baby girl only a short time before Kassa’s killing, was found dead after police were called to the 24-storey building at 1541 Riverside Drive following a 911 call from someone who does not live in the building.

Witnesses said a police officer held the child under the shade of a tree as her mother’s death was investigated. Police could not say whether Gebre was the father of the baby, but said Kassa and the accused were in a relationship.

According to the court information, Gebre did not live with Kassa, instead residing in an apartment on MacLaren Street.

A Crown prosecutor asked for the no-communication order with the child, who she said was a year-and-a-half old, and another woman. Gebere nodded his head when asked if he understood the condition not to communicate with the two.

Gebere, who was shackled, leaned against the front of the wooden prisoner’s box until a special constable told him not to. He then crossed his arms and stood silently, speaking quietly with his lawyer before being led back into custody pending his next court appearance by video July 26.

Lawyer Samir Adam, who appeared on Gebere’s behalf, said he had spoken to Gebere prior to his court appearance. However, he couldn’t offer any details of the accused’s relationship with the victim and said it was too early to comment on the case.

“It’s a serious situation,” said Adam, who appeared on behalf of Gebere’s lawyer, Stuart Konyer.

— By Andrew Seymour, The Ottawa Citizen