Toronto man planned to kill ex, not her uncle, appeal court says in changing conviction
TORONTO — Ontario’s top court says a Toronto man who planned to kill his estranged wife but ended up killing her uncle instead should not be convicted of first-degree murder because the uncle was not the plot’s intended target.
In a decision released this week, the Court of Appeal for Ontario says that while jurors found Willy Ching intended to kill his ex’s uncle in the moment, there was no planning and deliberation involved in that slaying.
As a result, the court says the conviction for first-degree murder should be quashed and replaced with one for second-degree murder, which does not involve advance planning.
Court heard Ching bought a hatchet and knife and was trying to get into the home where his estranged wife, Maria Ching, was staying, but her uncle intervened and was fatally wounded in the struggle.
The appeal court says the trial judge erred in telling jurors they could find Willy Ching guilty of first-degree murder if they found he planned to kill his former spouse and killed her uncle, Ernesto Agsaulio, in the process of carrying out that plan.
It says that was a misapplication of a ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada in a case involving a man who accidentally killed his children while trying to kill his spouse.
“The jury found that the appellant intended to kill Mr. Agsaulio … The planning and deliberation, however, was in respect of a different intended killing, the killing of Ms. Ching,” the appeal court wrote in its decision, noting jurors were not asked to consider whether the uncle’s murder was planned and deliberate.
“There is a sound policy reason for concluding that an accused who intentionally kills person B when in the course of carrying out the planned and deliberate murder of person A will be guilty of second-degree murder, whereas an accused who accidentally or mistakenly kills person B when person A was the target will be convicted of first-degree murder,” it said.
“This result reflects the fact that in the first case the actual killing may well have been impulsive while in the second, it was the result of a planned and deliberate act.”
However, the court rejected arguments that the trial judge had also erred in his instructions to jurors regarding Ching’s attempt to jump over a staircase railing upon learning Agsaulio had died, and those regarding Ching’s conflicting statements in his testimony and police interviews.
Court heard the couple’s marriage fell apart in 2009 and that September, Maria Ching moved out of their shared home to go live with Agsaulio and his family in nearby Mississauga, Ont.
Willy Ching did not accept that the marriage was ending and repeatedly tried to speak to his former spouse, the decision said.
Ching had been on medication for depression for years but it was changed that October, and he was also prescribed sleeping pills, it said. Days later, he attempted to overdose on sleeping pills and was hospitalized for three days, it said.
Later that month, Ching became upset after unsuccessfully trying to access his ex’s email account, and went to a Canadian Tire store to buy a knife and hatchet, the document said.
The next day, he rented a car and drove to Agsaulio’s house in an effort to see his ex-wife, the document said. The couple’s daughters realized he was trying to see their mother and called to warn her, it said.
Their mother, in turn, called Ching and told him to go home, the ruling said. He asked her to come outside to talk, but she refused and warned her uncle that Ching was on his way to the house, it said.
When Ching rang the doorbell, it was Agsaulio who answered and refused to let him in, the document said. They talked for a few minutes, then Ching began “hacking and slashing” at Agsaulio before he could be restrained, it said.
Agsaulio was still alive when Ching was arrested and charged with assault, it said. He gave a statement to police, saying he had only wanted to talk to his wife and had not tried to kill anyone, it said.
By the end of the interview, however, police informed Ching that Agsaulio had died and the charge would be upgraded to first-degree murder, the decision said. Ching then asked to use the bathroom, ran towards the stairwell and tried to “fling himself headfirst over the railing,” but officers held him back, it said.
He gave a second statement to police the next day, repeating that he had gone to the house to speak to his ex and had not intended to hurt anyone, the document said.
Ching said he had brought the knife and hatchet because he wanted to threaten to hurt himself if his ex didn’t take him back, it said. He also told officers he had bought the weapons a long time ago.
Second-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 10 to 25 years.