OTTAWA — Tamrat Gebere told a psychiatrist 10 days after he stabbed his ex-girlfriend to death that before the killing he thought might be “possessed by spirits” and even sought out the help of priests to exorcise him.
Dr. Reguvaran Kunjukrishna testified Thursday that Gebere described how he was still hearing voices and seeing things. Inside a room at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre, Gebere explained that he had religious visions that encouraged him to end his own life but that he decided he wanted to live for his 17-month-old daughter, Kunjukrishna recalled.
“He was severely depressed. Constantly crying. He was expressing strong guilt feelings of causing the death of his baby’s mother — that’s how he put it,” Kunjukrishna said, adding that hallucinations can be a symptom of depression.
On July 17, 2010, as his daughter cried in the background, Gebere called 911 to report that he killed his ex-girlfriend inside her Riverside Drive apartment. Aster Kassa, 32, was stabbed 53 times.
A jury will decide whether he is guilty of second-degree murder. He has pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
Kunjukrishna, who runs a practice at the Royal Ottawa Hospital, was once-a-week consultant at the detention centre when he met Gebere. He diagnosed Gebere with major depression and treated him for more than a year.
Kunjukrishna also diagnosed Gebere with complex post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from a history of abuse at the hands of his father as a child growing up in Ethiopia and from suffering during his 10 years living in a Kenyan refugee camp.
“He was exposed to a lot of trauma in his growing years,” Kunjukrishna said.
Kunjukrishna testified that while some prisoners fake mental illness, he did not believe that was true in Gebere’s case.
Still, Kunjukrishna concluded that Gebere was fit to stand trial and that the “not criminally responsible” defence was not applicable.
“I did not feel that he was not so depressed that he did not know right from wrong,” he said.
Gebere immigrated to Canada in 1992. He attended the University of Ottawa and was later hired at Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
The trial continues Friday.