'I am sorry': Markham, Ont. man apologizes in court for killing four family members last summer
TORONTO -- A 24-year-old Markham, Ont. man who killed his mother, father, sister and grandmother inside their family home last summer apologized for his actions during a sentencing hearing on Monday morning, saying loved ones would have never seen this coming.
“I would like to just apologize to anyone I have impacted negatively with my actions,” Menhaz Zaman told a virtual courtroom from inside the Central East Correctional Centre while wearing an orange jumpsuit. “Especially to the people who knew my family – friends and loved ones who I know could have never seen something like this from me happening.”
“I am sorry.”
The sentencing hearing, which was held via video conference, took place after Zaman pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder on Sept. 24.
The charges were laid against Zaman after emergency crews were called to a home on Castlemore Avenue on the afternoon of July 27, 2019.
When officers arrived at the residence on that day they were met by Zaman at the front door.
Zaman was immediately taken into custody before police walked through the home and located four deceased people.
The victims were his 21-year-old sister Malesa Zaman, his 59-year-old father Moniruz Zaman, his 50-year-old mother Momotaz Begum, and his 70-year-old grandmother Firoza Begum.
The grim discovery was made after police officers were led to the home by users of an online gaming platform.
Back in July of last year, an online gamer told CTV News Toronto that Zaman “messaged many of his friends, including myself, about the details of the murder, during the act.”
A conviction of first-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years. Parole ineligibility periods can be stacked consecutively for multiple counts of murder.
The Crown asked the judge Monday for Zaman to remain ineligible for parole for 15 years for the one count of second-degree murder and 25 years consecutive for the three counts of first-degree murder, meaning, Zaman would not be able to apply for parole for 40 years.
“These were horrible, monstrous, brutal killings. They took place in the family home where all four victims lived with Zaman," Crown prosecutor K.J. Stewart said.
"The home is supposed to be a place of safety, of security, of sanctity. Family is supposed to be the ones in life who protect you, who care for you, share good times with you, confide in you, support you through life’s ups and downs and Zaman betrayed those two guiding principals of family life and home life in the most horrific way possible, murdering his entire family one after another."
According to an agreed statement of facts presented in court at an earlier date, Zaman killed his mother first at 3 p.m. and then his grandmother about an hour later. He then sat around playing video games and napping while waiting for his father and sister to return from their jobs. He killed his sister around 11 p.m. and his father about an hour after that.
“Autopsies revealed he had struck each of them on the head, with most likely a crow bar, and when they fell to the floor, he cut their throats,” the agreed statement of facts said.
‘I fear seeing Menhaz’
During the sentencing hearing on Monday, the Crown was able to read a victim impact statement on behalf of Malesa Zaman’s best friend.
Afnan Alibaccas said they had met when they were in Grade 3 and had maintained a strong relationship throughout the years.
“I knew her for my years of my life than I didn’t know her and a whole chunk of my life was taken away when she died,” she said. “I still can’t believe it.”
“I never thought I would have to write a victim impact statement for my best friend’s murder. I never thought she would be taken away from me like this. I’ve thought the only time I would write a speech for her would be on her wedding day at some point in the future but I guess that’s off the table now.”
Alibaccas said she has developed chronic anxiety since the day she lost her best friend and added that she had yet to see a therapist because she does not have insurance to cover the steep cost.
“I fear seeing Menhaz. I fear what he may do as a free man. I have panicked several times in public since he committed the murder in fear of seeing him or when I see anyone who looks like him. I fear this pain and anxiety will never leave me.”
‘Guilty plea is a true expression of remorse’
Zaman first thought about killing his family three years earlier, according to the agreed statement of facts.
After the murders took place, he told a friend he felt shame because his family believed he was studying engineering at York University. He was enrolled in an electronics engineering program at Seneca College, but dropped out in 2015 due to failing grades.
After failing out, he spent his time in a nearby mall and at a gym in an effort to keep up the ploy, according to the agreed statement of facts.
His family believed Zaman was set to graduate on July 28, 2019 – the day after the murders took place.
Defense lawyer Adele Monaco said her client instructured her to make a joint position with the Crown on sentencing with parole ineligibility set at 40 years.
“Zaman is a 24-year-old man, who prior to this had no involvement with the criminal justice system. His guilty plea is a true expression of remorse," she said on Monday. "Zaman has instructed me to make no further submissions."
Justice Michelle Fuerst, who is overseeing the case, said she needs additional time to write out her reasonings for her sentencing decision after hearing submissions from both sides.
The hearing is expected to continue via video teleconference on Nov. 2 at 2 p.m.