Ian Albert Ohab was only thinking about himself when he decided to dismember the body of Melissa Cooper in his apartment — but he did not kill her, said Ohab’s defence lawyer Philip Klumak in his closing address to the jury at a second-degree murder trial in Toronto.
“If you found someone dead of an overdose in your apartment, what would you do? Chances are you wouldn’t dismember the body and disassociate completely from that person’s existence,” Klumak said Monday, urging the jury to consider Ohab’s history of drug addiction and the overdose death of his partner in the same apartment three months prior.
“How can you say that it is unreasonable for a heroin addict, after losing his spouse, going through what he did after that, to come up with what he sees as the only way to remove himself from the situation. It was not an unreasonable situation for him.”
Ohab, 41, denies murdering Cooper, 30, but has admitted to a charge of indignity to a dead body. While testifying in his defence, Ohab graphically described how he disposed of Cooper’s body three years ago.
Klumak said the Crown’s evidence — including traces of blood found in the bathroom of frequent intravenous drug users and the borrowing of a small amount of bleach — is purely circumstantial and cannot be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. He argues Cooper died of an overdose.
“Ian Ohab made sure of that. He dismembered her body, ensured it was completely devoid of all blood and scattered her body parts in a calculated and measured attempt to conceal her murder,” she told the jury in her closing arguments. “And he almost got away with it.”
Richards said Ohab’s accounts of what happened that night are “beyond belief” due to inconsistencies and “absurd” explanations.
She argued Ohab attacked and killed Cooper in the apartment — possibly because he wanted to have sex with her and she refused, possibly because he wanted to rob her or steal the drugs he may have thought she had.
She said Ohab could not explain why Cooper’s torso had bruises — one seven centimetres in length — and abrasions that the coroner found were made prior to her death and that Cooper’s boyfriend did not see earlier on the April 2016 night she died.
Richards said the evidence shows Cooper went to visit a friend at the 220 Oak St. apartment building on the night of April 14. Her friend, Maurice Liberty, said she left his apartment to obtain some crack cocaine for them, leaving her knapsack there. As Cooper made her way through the building, she encountered Ohab in the elevator, Richards said.
Ohab said she went to his apartment, where they each made crack pipes and smoked crack cocaine. He testified Cooper was fine when he later left to buy some heroin. When he returned, he said he saw Cooper was in the bathroom and he did some heroin and fell asleep. When he woke up, he said, Cooper was lying dead on the apartment floor.
Ohab was initially charged with first-degree murder but the charge was downgraded to second-degree murder during the trial.
The jury is expected to begin deliberations Wednesday.
Alyshah Hasham is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and court. Follow her on Twitter: @alysanmati