Ex-University of Waterloo student pleads guilty to 2023 stabbings in gender-studies class

Warning: This story contains distressing details:

A former University of Waterloo, Ont., student has pleaded guilty to four charges in connection with the stabbing of an instructor and two students during a gender-studies class in June 2023.

Geovanny Villalba-Aleman appeared in a Kitchener court on Monday morning.

He pleaded guilty to:

  • Two charges of aggravated assault.

  • One charge of assault causing bodily harm.

  • One charge of assault with a weapon.

Two students and an instructor were stabbed in Hagey Hall on June 2023. Police called it "a hate-motivated incident related to gender expression and gender identity." A third student was also almost stabbed while trying to flee.

The former student, who was 24 at the time of the attack, had been charged with attempted murder and mischief and also faced terrorism charges.

In court on Monday, he wore a blue striped, button-down shirt and dark pants with glasses.

He asked the judge to explain each of the four charges multiple times before pleading guilty. His lawyer noted that the man's first language is Spanish and it would have been ideal to have a translator present, but one wasn't requested by the defence in time for Monday's plea date.

Sentencing will be carried out over five days in October, when the judge will hear victim impact statements and sentencing submissions from prosecutors on the terrorism charge.

Evidence presented in court

Crown lawyer Armin Sethi presented evidence to Justice Frances Brennan during the plea hearing on Monday.

Sethi read aloud lines from a manifesto police found among Villalba-Aleman's belongings after the arrest. The manifesto referenced Anders Behring Breivik and Brenton Tarrant, and said the two convicted terrorists behind the 2011 Norway attacks and the 2019 Christchurch mosque attack, respectively, "did nothing wrong". The manifesto went on to say he wants to protect the freedom of education and is tired of the "woke agenda."

Geovanny Villalba-Aleman has pleaded guilty to four charges in connection with a stabbing incident during a gender-studies class last June. 
Geovanny Villalba-Aleman, 24, on Monday pleaded guilty to four charges in connection with the stabbings a year ago. (Geovanny Villalba-Aleman/Facebook)

Sethi also played audio recordings of the lecture from the June 2023 attack. Those present in the court heard the very moments the ex-student walked into the gender-studies class and spoke to the instructor before pulling out two large kitchen knives and attacking her. Screams from the instructor and the students fleeing the classroom were recorded, along with sounds of some students throwing chairs and other items at the attacker.

After that, Sethi showed images of the injuries to the associate professor and the two students. The associate professor had slashes on her face and arm; the students had gashes on their arms, torsos and hands.

A photograph of a small, palm-sized Pride flag was also shown, ripped up into several pieces on a table. Investigators found the flag inside the classroom after the attack. It was confirmed that Villalba-Aleman was the one who destroyed the flag but it wasn't known who the flag originally belonged to.

The court was also shown footage from a body camera, from the officer Villalba-Aleman eventually confessed to while still on campus. The video shows the ex-student first pretending to be a victim of the stabbing attack, describing a perpetrator with the same hair and height as him, before saying "put the handcuffs on me because it was me." His confession was followed by an apology to the university, adding it was "a personal issue".

A portion of a video from the police station following the man's arrest was also presented in court, with the voice of an investigator talking to him off camera. In the video, the police officer asks Villalba-Aleman if he would attack officers if they took his handcuffs off. In response, Villalba-Aleman said he wouldn't as long as they aren't members of the far left.

Dozens of students in class at time of attack

About 40 students were inside the classroom at the time of the stabbings.

A 38-year-old female associate professor from Kitchener and two students — a 20-year-old female and a 19-year-old male, both from Waterloo — were taken to hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries.

Police said a man who was not a member of the class entered around 3:30 p.m. ET on June 28 and spoke with the associate professor before attacking her with two knives.

Members of the Waterloo Regional Police investigate a stabbing at the University of Waterloo, in Waterloo, Ont., Wednesday, June 28, 2023. Waterloo Regional Police said three victims were stabbed inside the universityÕs Hagey Hall, with one person was taken into custody. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nick Iwanyshyn
Members of the Waterloo Regional Police Service investigated the stabbing in June 2023 inside Hagey Hall at the Ontario school. (Nick Iwanyshyn/The Canadian Press)

Police said while students were trying to escape, two students were stabbed and there was an attempt to stab a third student.

Officials from the University of Waterloo said the in-house emergency alert system didn't work as expected after the stabbings, adding the WatSAFE app had sent an alert to students 90 minutes after the incident.