TORONTO — Two men accused of killing promising Ottawa music journalist and photographer Zack Noureddine were found guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter respectively by a jury after less than a day of deliberations.
Patrick Smith wiped away tears after the jury acquitted him of first-degree murder but guilty of second-degree murder. Matthew Moreira appeared upset as well after he was acquitted of murder but convicted of the lesser but included offence of manslaughter in the stomping death of the 25-year-old victim on Dec. 29, 2015.
Smith was also convicted of assaulting Noureddine’s friend, Mitchell Conery, while Moreira was convicted of robbing Conery.
“I’m disappointed as I had hoped both would be convicted of murder,” said Zack’s father, Hassan, who lost his first-born son to a robbery-motivated act of violence.
“Our hope is that the judge sees fit to give these killers the longest sentence possible. I hope the judge recognizes the robbery aspect as an extremely aggravating factor in this heinous crime,” said Hassan, a software engineer and father of three sons.
“It wasn’t Zack they targeted — it could have been anyone. It could have been any Canadian citizen and Zack just paid the price for being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Hassan.
“Zack was an extremely kind and generous young man who used to feed the homeless he saw on the streets,” said Hassan. “He was a people person who had dozens of friends who all considered him a best friend.
“It’s the hardest thing in the world to do for a parent to bury a child.”
The Crown alleged that Smith, Moreira and Will Cummins committed first-degree murder by killing Noureddine while simultaneously robbing and unlawfully confining Conery.
Smith, 28, pleaded guilty to manslaughter while Moreira, 34, pleaded guilty to attempted robbery. Those guilty pleas were rejected by the Crown.
The Crown contended that it was an intentional murder: A vicious beating committed while the victim was unlawfully confined.
Cummins sucker-punched Conery, who lost his eyeglasses and remained on the ground while Noureddine was beaten to death. Moreira then put his foot on Conery and said, “Give me the wallet and we’re done,” court heard. Conery had no wallet.
Cummins and Smith ganged up on Noureddine, punching and kneeing him. Smith also kicked the victim in the head. A tiny neck bone, which was between the thickness of a dime or a nickel, was shattered, severing an artery and causing fatal bleeding, court heard.
All but one of the eyewitnesses maintained only two men attacked Noureddine while Moreira stood by Conery, court heard.
The beating ended after patrons from the nearby St. Louis Bar and Grill shouted and came to the victim’s aid, but the deadly damage had already been done.
Cummins, Smith and Moreira were drinking heavily and smoking marijuana while Smith also consumed cocaine that night, the trial was told.
Cummins will have his own trial next year as he fired his lawyer after the first trial, which ended in a mistrial last month.
Noureddine had moved from Ottawa to Toronto a few years earlier to pursue his career dreams.
Justice Suhail Akhtar will sentence the two killers on March 29.
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