Man pleads guilty to murder on first day of trial

  • Oct. 21, 2015 2:58 p.m.

What was supposed to be a three-week trial in Red Deer’s Court of Queen’s Bench began with a guilty plea from the accused.

Bashir Gaashaan, 33, pleaded guilty to second degree murder and offering indignity to a human body as a result of the death of Jenna Cartwright, 21, in 2011. Gaashaan was initially charged with first degree murder in which he pleaded not guilty to.

Cartwright was found partially clothed on a rural road near the Town of Olds on May 3rd, 2011. Her cousin had reported her missing on April 20th, 2011.

In an Agreed Statement of Facts that was read into the record on Monday, court heard that Gaashaan and Cartwright had left a mutual friend’s house together and went to Gaashaan’s residence on March 30th, 2011. The document also stated the pair had consumed cocaine together at his home. Gaashaan had left the room and upon his return noticed some drugs had gone missing. He questioned Cartwright and then proceeded to enter his bedroom. The Agreed Statement of Facts indicated that Cartwright leaped onto Gaashaan’s back and a struggle ensued.

The document stated that Gaashaan strangled Cartwright until she was unconscious and then gagged her with a black cloth. Gaashaan bound her hands and wrapped her face in plastic and wrapped her body in a duvet.

He then put her body in the basement. The Agreed Statement of Facts stated Gaashaan tried to bury Cartwright’s body but the ground was frozen, so he left her on a rural road near the Town of Olds. Her body was found on May 3rd, 2011 by a passerby.

Gaashaan was arrested on June 13th, 2011 in Thunder Bay after being charged with taking a motor vehicle without consent. At the time of his arrest for the murder, Gaashaan was already in custody serving time for a 45-day sentence he was given for the previous incident. Gaashaan has remained in custody since being brought back to Red Deer.

The Agreed Statement of Facts also showed that during his interview with police, Gaashaan admitted to killing Cartwright.

After pleading guilty to second degree murder, Gaashaan received an automatic sentence of 25 years in prison. His parole eligibility, which can range from 10-25 years, will be determined by Justice Donna Read on Thursday afternoon.

Crown Prosecutor Bruce Ritter said Gaashaan should not be eligible for parole until he has served 12 and a half years of his sentence. Ritter also sought a sentence of three and a half years for the charge of offering indignity to a human body, which would be served concurrently with the second degree murder sentence.

Naeem Rauf, defense lawyer for Gaashaan said parole should be considered after 10 years – the minimum time allowed to be given for parole eligibility for such charges – and his client’s circumstances should be taken into consideration.

“This was drug and alcohol fueled. Mr. Gaashaan’s life came crashing down because of his own actions,” he said. “He has spent four years and five months in pre-trial custody and he has been held on a protective unit in which he has been locked up for 22 hours a day. This exacerbates these circumstances.”

Rauf added that Gaashaan, who was born in Somalia, had a traumatic childhood that saw him left in a refugee camp at a young age in Kenya as his family fled to Canada. He eventually joined his family in Ontario three years later and dropped out of school in Grade 10 before moving to Alberta in his early adulthood and falling into the drug culture.

“He spiraled out of control,” said Rauf.

Meanwhile, Lynda Cartwright, Jenna’s mother, read her victim impact statement in court on Monday morning.

“There is a hole in my heart that will never be filled. I have a feeling of guilt that I wasn’t able to protect her. Her daughter will never know how much she loved her.

“Everything in my life has changed and nothing ever will be the same.”

Gaashaan was wearing a grey hoodie and looked down during most of the court proceedings on Monday. Before court adjourned, he addressed the gallery, including Cartwright’s family.

“I am ashamed this has happened. I wish I could take it all back, but I can’t. Never in a million years I thought this would happen – I was not raised this way, ” he said. “To the family, I am really sorry. I wish I could give my life to bring her back. I ask God to cool your hearts and help make it easier for you.”

In addition, Read will deliver her decision regarding Gaashaan’s eligibility for parole on Thursday afternoon in Red Deer’s Court of Queen’s Bench.

After Gaashaan serves his sentence, he faces deportation back to Somalia.