B.C.’s Court of Appeal has cut five years from the sentence of a Richmond man who pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder.
It did so due to his advancing Parkinson’s disease.
In May 2019, Maurio Salehi was sentenced to 20 years in prison without parole for the July 2015 stabbing deaths of his ex-girlfriend and an Israeli friend.
After hearing new submissions in late 2021, the court said on Jan. 4 that “evidence indicates the appellant will experience hardship in prison beyond that experienced by other inmates as a result of his illness.”
Salehi’s parole eligibility was subsequently cut from 20 years to 15.
The court said the change would reflect necessary denunciation for Salehi’s “brutal crimes” but also “impose fewer limitations on the ability of the prison authorities to address damage to the appellant’s physical and mental health and exceptional hardship that is likely to arise during the appellant’s continued confinement.”
Parkinson’s is a brain disorder leading to shaking, stiffness and difficulty with coordination, balance and walking. Symptoms start gradually but worsen over time.
Salehi was charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the Coquitlam stabbing deaths of Iryna Gabalis, 56, and Dmitri Faktorovski, 53.
Gabalis had met with Salehi on July 14 to drop off some keys before going to meet Faktorovski at Vancouver International Airport. Salehi followed her and took photos but she spotted him.
Salehi texted her five times, at one point threatening suicide. He also called 14 times, the court heard.
Early the next day, he entered her home, found her in bed and stabbed her dozens of times.
During the attack, Faktorovski came upstairs and was also stabbed multiple times.
Salehi left the house after he cleaned himself of blood and changed out of his clothes, which he took with him, as well as Gabalis’ cellphone. He discarded them en route to Richmond.
Later that day, Salehi received treatment for a broken arm at Richmond Hospital. While there, he called Gabalis’ office and told her assistant that he had tried to reach Gabalis, feigning concern about her well-being.
“Mr. Salehi took these steps in an effort to conceal the fact that he had just stabbed Ms. Gabalis and Mr. Faktorovski to death,” said the B.C. Supreme Court judge in her ruling.
When Gabalis didn’t attend work on July 16, co-workers contacted her son, who discovered the dead bodies and called 911. Salehi was arrested days later.
With the guilty pleas and an agreed statement of facts, the judge sentenced Salehi to life imprisonment without parole for 20 years.
This isn’t the first time Salehi has used his Parkinson’s for a sentence appeal.
In July, Salehi said he followed legal advice without properly understanding what he was agreeing to; he said his former lawyer failed to properly investigate his claim to have blacked out while he was killing his victims. He further submitted the Parkinson’s or medication might have led him to act out of control and impulsively at the time of the killings.
In July, an appeal court judge said Salehi at sentencing called expert evidence about his Parkinson’s disease in an effort to reduce the period of ineligibility for parole.
“At no time leading up to the sentence hearing, or during it, did he cast any doubt on the validity of his guilty pleas,” the appeal court judge said. “Rather, at the conclusion of the sentencing hearing, the applicant explicitly acknowledged his guilt, saying ‘I’m guilty and know that I am guilty.’”
However, in the latest court decision, Justice Peter Willcock said medical experts found that Salehi is experiencing ongoing tremors, muscle weakness, poor posture, involuntary movements, spasms and symptoms of possible hyperthyroidism.
Willcock said evidence showed Salehi “will have five to 10 pretty good years of activity and mobility, and the following 10 years will see a progressive decline in mobility and overall ability.”
Beyond that, he would experience hardship in prison, Willcock said.