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How a killer exploited every opportunity

William Imona-Russel was in the witness box for about an hour before he confessed to killing Yasmin Ashareh.

William Imona-Russel was in the witness box for about an hour before he confessed to killing Yasmin Ashareh.

A few days before her death in July 2006, the 20-year-old woman had rented the bedroom across the hall from him in a northwest Toronto townhouse.

“I snapped. I picked up the scissors and struck her,” he told an Ontario Superior Court jury on April 27.

“It happened really so fast. It was something I couldn’t believe myself.”

That confession ended four years of Imona-Russel, 36, doggedly trying to prove he did not rape and stab Ashareh. At the same time he was also denying he had twice raped a former lover, once while holding a power drill to her head.

For Imona-Russel, the just-completed homicide trial — the jury convicted him of first-degree murder yesterday — was part of an epic voyage through the immigration and judicial systems.

Fighting to clear his name of murder, he hired and fired a series of lawyers, until Ontario legal aid officials said they wouldn’t fund any new lawyers due to his “total inability to work with defence counsel.”

He filed copious complaints, appealed numerous court decisions — twice to the Supreme Court of Canada — and sought countless adjournments.

From the perspective of the Crown, police and the family of the woman he killed, the case has been a travesty and his legal maneuverings a blatant attempt to postpone judgment day.

Compounding the bitterness for the family of Ashareh is the fact Imona-Russel was not only in Canada when he shouldn’t have been, but at the time of her slaying he was out on bail for the rapes of his one-time lover.

When he was arrested in 2005 for the sexual assaults, he was described as having “no status” in Canada because his refugee claim had been denied.

Nonetheless, he was granted release.

A spokeswoman for Canada Border Services said a deportation order is not an enforceable removal order. As well, immigration matters take a “back seat” to criminal proceedings, she said.

 
 
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