A jealous refugee was sentenced yesterday to life in prison without parole eligibility for 18 years for brutally killing his Ryerson student girlfriend–cutting her jugular vein and slashing his victim’s face after she was dead.
“He vilified the victim and consistently seeks to blame the victim,” said Madam Justice Anne Molloy in sentencing Arssei Hindessa, 33, for the May 15, 2006, murder of Natalie Novak, 20.
“This was as close to first-degree murder without actually being first-degree murder. This domestic violence was marked by brutality and gratuitous violence,” said Molloy.
She determined that Hindessa would have to wait until 2024 before he could apply for parole. In March, a jury acquitted him of first-degree murder, deciding he was guilty of the lesser offence of second-degree murder.
“This was the final instalment in the history of domestic violence,” said Molloy, adding that he repeatedly broke court orders prohibiting him from seeing Novak.
He assaulted her twice in public places: Once at a party and another time in a night club.
While Novak fought for her life, Hindessa stabbed her nine times in the chest and once in the back. He savagely cut both her carotid artery and jugular vein and slashed her face after she died.
“This was extreme butchery and degradation,” Molloy said.
“None of these people will ever be able to erase these last horrific images of Natalie,” said the judge. “She was a kind, vibrant and exceptional young woman who was adored and treasured by her family and friends.”
Novak informed friends that she planned to sever their relationship the night she was killed, said Molloy.
After a night of socializing with Novak and her friends, Hindessa and Novak quarreled in her bedroom. Hindessa left, “selected the sharpest knife” in her kitchen, returned to her room and locked the door. He attacked her as she lay in her bed, said Molloy.
Hindessa was captured by police two hours later.
Novak’s parents, Ed and Dawn, applauded the judge for sending a strong message that violence against women is being taken seriously.
“The victim rarely realizes how dangerous the situation is and needs to be protected from the perpetrator,” said Ed Novak, who stared at the face of his daughter’s killer in court and saw “no remorse whatsoever.
“The perpetrator shouldn’t have the carte blanche to abuse the victim and remain free to do it again and again; to ignore restraining orders, bail and probation conditions with impunity,” Novak said.
The killer was physically abusive and a philanderer who financially exploited his wife, Indisar Buba-Rashid, during their four-year marriage, court heard. Hindessa started seeing Novak a few months before his wife left him in November 2004, court heard.
The judge dismissed Hindessa’s testimony that he saw Novak as “seven-headed” beast or devil when he stabbed her as a “complete fabrication.” The jury rejected Hindessa’s story that he was breaking it off with Novak to re-unite with his wife when Novak became violent with him, said Molloy.
She accepted that Hindessa endured torture in Ethiopia. But she said she couldn’t say whether mental illness had anything to do with the slaying because of Hindessa’s dishonesty, both as a witness and as a patient to various psychiatrists.
Crown attorneys Mary Humphrey and Karen Simone argued that Hindessa should serve between 18 and 25 years to protect the public, especially women.
“This is a tragedy for everybody, a young man will spend most of his adult life in prison and it’s a tragic loss of life for a young woman,” said Hindessa’s lawyer, Aston Hall.