MONTREAL — A Montreal man who pleaded guilty to stabbing his unborn baby to death will only be eligible for parole after serving 15 years in prison, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Sofiane Ghazi received his life sentence at the Montreal courthouse with the judge describing the crimes as ones of "extreme cruelty" and "committed in the context of extreme conjugal violence."
Ghazi, 40, pleaded guilty to reduced charges of second-degree murder and aggravated assault on his former wife in September 2019, just two days into his jury trial for first-degree murder and attempted murder.
Two weeks after that, Ghazi tried to withdraw the pleas but the court rejected that request in a decision rendered in March.
Second-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence but it was up to Quebec Superior Court Justice Jean-Claude Buffoni to decide how many years Ghazi would serve before being eligible for parole.
In a joint statement of facts, the court heard that in July 2017, Ghazi used a carving fork to stab his wife, who was 36 weeks pregnant at the time.
Of the 19 stab wounds — 12 were on the left side of her stomach and seven in her left thigh. She survived the attack.
Nine wounds were inflicted on the baby in the womb and observed on the newborn after his birth.
The boy’s cause of death was attributed to trauma caused by a sharp object in utero, but Ghazi told the court he accepted the fact, "the death of baby Ghazi occurred after he’d become a human being."
The baby had a heartbeat for several minutes before succumbing to his injuries.
While rendering his decision, Buffoni underscored the fact that after the brutal attack, Ghazi left the family apartment without calling 911 and took the only phone in the home with him, preventing his blood-soaked wife from calling for help.
Ghazi listened to the decision from the prisoners' box, his eyes either fixed on the judge or to the ground. He will only have 10 years left to serve before his parole eligibility kicks in because the three years he served in preventative detention since his arrest count as time-and-a-half.
Ghazi's ex-wife listened to the decision intently. At the time of the attack, the couple had been married for 12 years and had two children. Both her identity and that of their children are protected by a publication ban.
After the decision, the woman said she hopes it will help them turn the page and look to the future.
"What he did is going to stay a lifetime, for us and the children," she said. "The children are traumatized for life, I am traumatized for life."
As Buffoni rendered his decision orally, both Crown prosecutor Chantal Michaud and defence attorney Steve Hanafi said they would study the written ruling before deciding whether there was reason to appeal.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 19, 2020.
Stephanie Marin, The Canadian Press