A jury has convicted a man of second-degree murder for inflicting what prosecutors said was “an insane level of ultra-violence” on a defenceless 82-year-old grandmother after breaking into her Scarborough bungalow four years ago — a time when he was on probation for a shockingly similar crime and recently bailed for another violent attack.
After a six-week trial, the jury retired Wednesday morning to consider whether Sinbad King Simba Marshall, 25, was guilty of murder or manslaughter, as the defence had argued. A murder conviction requires that an accused had the required intent to kill.
Marshall testified he broke into the home the night of Nov. 9, 2015, thinking it was empty. When he saw Stella Tetsos, Marshall said he “made a bad decision and panicked” and beat her but didn’t think his assault would kill her. He told the jury he left the home after stealing her jewelry, believing she was “fine” and “well.”
Prosecutors urged jurors to reject Marshall’s version, saying the evidence overwhelmingly showed he intended to kill the only eye witness to the break-and-enter.
“He mercilessly beat her to death because he wanted her dead,” prosecutor David Steinberg told the jury during his closing address.
“This is an overwhelming, damning case of cold-blooded murder.”
Marshall did not react as the verdict was read out in court Friday morning.
Tetsos’s family members sobbed and hugged prosecutors soon after, as after jurors retired to consider people eligibility recommendations.
Jurors heard some evidence about some of Marshall’s criminal record for offences involving violence, but did not hear he was on probation and bail when he killed Tetsos, nor that he had been convicted of aggravated assault for a similar crime.
In June 2013, Marshall broke into another elderly woman’s house, held a knife to her throat and threatened to kill her, according to the Toronto police synopsis. He tied her hands together, punched and kicked her in the face and chest before fleeing. She suffered a large knife wound to her arm, broken teeth, a broken hand and cuts and bruises to her face and hands, the document says. Marshall received an 18-month sentence and was put on probation for three years. In May 2015, while on probation for the 2013 attack, he punched and choked a man while robbing him of his gold chains, according to another police synopsis. He pleaded guilty to assault and was released on bail pending sentencing. He was on bail when he killed Tetsos, and it was while he was in custody and facing the murder charge that he was sentenced to seven months in jail for the chain robbery.
Medical evidence presented during the murder trial showed Tetsos suffered dozens of rib fractures and had 94 contusions all over her body, injuries inflicted when Marshall delivered a crushing series of blows while beating her from head to toe.
He smashed her head with such force he tore structures deep in her brain and destroyed her rib cage, and injured her heart, lungs and organs, Steinberg told the jury.
“She’s not an MMA fighter,” Steinberg said. “This is not a fair fight. It’s a slaughter.”
In his address, defence lawyer Chris Hicks argued his client’s intention was to steal jewelry — not kill Tetsos.
A number of facts prevented Marshall, a homeless, drug-addicted Indigenous man, from foreseeing the likelihood of Tetsos’s death, Hicks continued. He was too stoned and drunk to form the intent to murder and was unaware she had health “deficits” that contributed to her death, including heart and kidney disease and osteoporosis, which “made her ribs particularly vulnerable to impact blows.”
As well, some of her broken ribs were likely attributed to the CPR that was administered by four people, Hicks said.
Steinberg said there was no evidence — other than Marshall’s own testimony — that the man was drunk, noting that he came prepared for the break-and-enter with a mag-light, gloves, knife and pry tool. Steinberg also rejected the claim that some of the injuries to Tetsos’s ribs came from CPR, noting a physician testified a “few” of 45 fractures might have been caused that way, noting that only ribs on the front are vulnerable to being broken that way, when the “most brutal of all the fractures,” were to her back ribs.
Marshall testified he wrested rings from Tetsos’s fingers and wore them because, he said, he liked them. He also snapped the chains from around her neck, ransacked the house and cut the phone lines before he left.
When he was caught, Marshall desperately tried to slip one of the grandmother’s rings off his finger.
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During the trial, Superior Court Justice Robert Goldstein agreed to a defence motion to order the jury to return a not guilty verdict to first-degree murder after determining there was not sufficient evidence of planning and deliberation in the killing.
On Thursday, Marshall’s jury told Goldstein it was deadlocked and unable to return a verdict. Jurors returned with a decision on Friday, the morning after the judge instructed them to resume deliberations.
Marshall is set to return to court for sentencing on Jan. 24.