A Toronto judge is expected to sentence former neurosurgeon Mohammed Shamji for the second-degree murder of his wife Dr. Elana Fric-Shamji on Thursday morning.
Shamji, 43, faces an automatic life sentence. The Crown and defence have jointly proposed he should serve 14 years before he can first apply for parole — a sentence they say reflects that Shamji pleaded guilty before his trial, sparing his 14-year-old daughter the trauma of testifying about her mother’s murder and his wife’s family the pain of a public trial.
During the sentencing hearing Wednesday, family and friends of Fric-Shamji shared the terrible impact of the loss of the mother of three young children and exceptional family doctor, described by one friend as a possible future minister of health.
“Elana was the child every parent could hope for,” her mother Ana Fric said in an emotional statement. “(Shamji) has destroyed all of our lives forever.”
Shamji pleaded guilty last month, admitting to fatally strangling his wife in their family home two days after she filed for divorce. In the days after he continued his normal routines, lying about his wife’s whereabouts and planting evidence to frame the man she had been having an affair with.
Crown prosecutor Elizabeth Stokes on Wednesday said the sentence must denounce domestic homicide in the strongest terms and the impact of the murder has been devastating on a wide scale.
However, she said, Shamji’s guilty plea was a “significant mitigating factor.”
At the end of his sentencing hearing, Shamji stood in the prisoner’s box and spoke in court for the first time about what he’d done.
“Somehow I turned my back on my oath and calling and took a life, Elana’s life. It makes no sense to me. I don’t know how I could cause such pain and anguish,” he said. “I should have killed myself and not Elana.”
Myrna Dawson, a professor at the University of Guelph and leading researcher on domestic homicides, said the proposed 14-year parole ineligibility period is in line with the average in cases where women have been murdered by intimate partners in the past several decades in Ontario. And while sentences have increased in recent years, her research shows there remains an “intimacy discount” when the sentences are compared to non-intimate murders, she said.
“We have to ask ourselves what the sentence would have been if it had been a stranger who had beaten and choked a woman and stuffed her into a suitcase and disposed of her like garbage. Would he have gotten a plea? Would his sentence have been this low?”
Alyshah Hasham is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and court. Follow her on Twitter: @alysanmati