A judge, who concluded it was a mystery as to why a quiet, well-mannered foreign student had murdered his rental agent, has sentenced the accused to life in prison with no parole for 10 years.
A tenant who was convicted of murdering his rental agent has been sentenced to life in prison with no parole eligibility for 10 years.
Diego Alfonso Huerta, 24, a Mexican man who was in Vancouver on a student visa, was found guilty of the March 2017 second-degree murder of Sofien Kazdaghli, 39.
At the time of the slaying in Huerta’s seventh-floor apartment at 438 Seymour St., Kazdaghli was the rental agent to Huerta, who was studying social media marketing at a private college in the city.
In reaching his verdict, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Terence Schultes said that there was no issue that Huerta caused Kazdaghli’s death by repeatedly stabbing him.
He said the questions in the case were whether Huerta, a quiet, well-mannered young man who engaged in activities typical of a student, was, as he claimed, in a dissociative state at the time of the slaying or was acting in self-defence or had been provoked.
On the day of the slaying, Kazdaghli had gone to Huerta’s apartment, which the accused was sharing another foreign student and a foreign traveller. One of the roommates testified that he heard a sound like the breaking of plates as well as a male voice scream and groan. When the roommate went to investigate and asked Huerta what had happened, he wasn’t sure what Huerta said in response.
Huerta cleaned up the scene and dragged the body out into the hallway. He took rental money from Kazdaghli and later disposed of the victim’s wallet and satchel.
Later fearing that the police were about to execute a search warrant in the apartment, Huerta attempted to flee the city, but was arrested before he could catch a bus to Kelowna.
The judge found Huerta’s story about what happened to be implausible and rejected his evidence. He said his conclusions about Huerta’s credibility made it unnecessary to consider at length the claims he was in a dissociative state.
Noting that the Crown had offered the theory that having failed to pay his rent and being faced with eviction, Huerta became enraged and attacked the rental agent, the judge found that the evidence with respect to non-payment of the rent was inconclusive.
“At the end of the day, we do not know why Mr. Huerta attacked Mr. Kazdaghli,” the judge said in a verdict delivered Friday in Vancouver. “But I am not required to determine the surrounding facts, much less a motive if the essential elements of the offence have been proven.”
All that can be said with certainty was that Huerta possessed the necessary intent for murder based on the large number of stab wounds and the location of some of those wounds in vital parts of the body, added the judge.
After rendering the verdict, the case proceeded to a sentencing hearing at which Crown counsel Daniel Mulligan and defence lawyer Chris Johnson presented a joint submission for Huerta to get the mandatory sentence of life in prison with the minimum of 10 years of parole ineligibility.
The aggravating factors included that Huerta had subjected the victim to a vicious attack with a knife and had added indignity to the victim’s body by dragging him into the hallway.
The mitigating factors included Huerta’s young age, lack of a prior criminal record and strong support from his family.
“I’m terribly sorry for what happened,” Huerta said in a brief statement in court.
After imposing the sentence, the judge, in an unusual move, recommended that if a program exists allowing Huerta to serve some or all of his sentence in the United States, where his family currently resides, or in Mexico, then the court endorses that possibility.