The “pandemic made him do it” must surely rank as one of the most odious excuses a killer has made in a Toronto courtroom.
In the summer of 2020, Damien Allred had been laid off from his construction job due to COVID-19 and he’d stopped taking his meds for anxiety.
He was in a “downward spiral,” his lawyer Andrew Furgiuele argued.
But that hardly explains the senseless, vicious killing of an elderly, disabled neighbour in his Parkdale public housing building for no apparent reason except perhaps a minor disagreement.
Ironically, Teresa Santos, 75, had finally agreed to go home to Portugal to visit her family that summer. A bedroom had been prepared; everyone was so excited to welcome her back.
“But unfortunately for us, she did not arrive alive,” wrote her daughter, also named Teresa. “She came back inside a coffin that we couldn’t even see inside for our last goodbye. That was hard, very hard.”
What made it especially unbearable was the way she died: Standing just 4-foot-11 and needing a walker to get around, Santos was no match for the burly construction worker who beat and stabbed her to death.
There was no robbery, no sexual assault, no discernable motive — just unfathomable violence: Four lacerations around her mouth, a cut above her eyebrow, four broken ribs, a stab wound inside her mouth with the blade wedged in her brain and a postmortem fracture of her spine in two places that the pathologist likened to a car crash victim.
Allred had obviously kicked and stomped on her — a bloody pillow on her face bore multiple imprints of his Puma sandal.
Her killer then left her to rot in her Shaw St. apartment, passing by her door each day with his wife and children as the smell finally grew so bad the superintendent was alerted by another neighbour and they discovered her body after three days.
Who does this to a vulnerable old woman, a gentle, humble soul who lived alone? A despicable, soulless killer who referred to Santos as “Pissy Pants.”
Convicted by a jury of second-degree murder in November, Allred, 42, faces a mandatory life sentence. The only issue argued Friday before Superior Court Justice Suhail Akhtar was when he can apply for parole.
“It was a gratuitous, vicious, violent crime,” said Crown attorney Michael Cantlon in asking the judge to impose a period of 18 to 20 years of parole ineligibility. “Ms. Santos was in her own apartment killed in a place where she had a reasonable expectation of safety.
In addition to the fatal stab wound, he said, Santos was attacked with a mirrored candle holder, with pieces of broken glass found in her stomach, and there was plastic from a mop handle found in her mouth.
Her neighbours were so traumatized by her brutal slaying, court heard, that they set up a table with flowers and a book of condolences in the lobby so they could share their pain and memories.
Allred’s lawyer blamed his past mental health issues — he was involuntarily hospitalized in Antigua in 2007 and did stints in rehab in California — and said he was “particularly susceptible to the anxiety and fear that gripped people in 2020,” especially since he’d stopped taking his anti-anxiety meds.
“I don’t mean the pandemic made everybody scared so that’s a get out of jail free card,” the lawyer hastily added. “But anxiety was running high and Mr. Allred was an individual who would be particularly susceptible to that.”
Furgiuele urged Akhtar to find the murder was “out of character” and allow Allred to apply for parole after 12 to 15 years.