Okoth Obeing trial: Man accused of murdering Winnipeg taxi driver turned aggressive when off medicine

The brother of a Winnipeg man charged with second-degree murder for the March 2020 homicide of 44-year-old Duffy’s Taxi driver Balvir Toor took the stand Thursday as defence lawyers began calling evidence in the Manitoba Court of King’s Bench trial.

Okoth Obeing, now 22, has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Toor was stabbed repeatedly with a large knife in a killing that was captured on camera inside the victim’s taxi.

Defence lawyer Alex Steigerwald has indicated outside court the case will focus on mental health and what role the accused’s mental health played in what happened.

The Crown, which has acknowledged in court the trial is about state of mind, is arguing Okoth felt animosity towards South Asian people and had a dislike of taxi drivers due in part to prepayment requests which the Crown suggested in court he perceived as disrespect. Prosecutors aren’t disputing he was suffering some effects of his mental illness after he stopped taking his medication but are arguing he’s criminally responsible because he understood the nature of his act and knew it was wrong.

Pajack Obeing, 24, testified Thursday he and his younger brother grew up with their family in Ethiopia where his mom worked as a farmer and his father a fisherman before they came to Canada in 2008.

Pajack told the court war forced the family of 10 to move within Ethiopia before coming to Canada and recalled an incident when he was nine and Okoth was six that left his younger brother traumatized.

He testified they and a friend took a mango and were subsequently chased by a man with a machete.

“For Okoth it really affected him, traumatized him,” Pajack testified. “We were running and we kind of left him behind.”

When the family arrived in Canada, Pajack told the court both he and Okoth had difficulty in school due in part to language barriers.

He testified Okoth was a happy and energetic kid but he told the court his brother’s behaviour changed several years after the family arrived in Canada.

“I started to notice his behaviour in 2015,” Pajack testified. “I started to notice that he used curse words.”

Pajack told the court Okoth cursed when he was angry or when there was a disagreement.

He testified his brother told him he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was prescribed medication for the illness. Pajack described for the court when asked by defence lawyer Mitch Merriott how his brother’s mood could swing from being relaxed to either angry or sad. He also told the court Okoth could go from being sad to angry.

“When he’s off his meds he becomes more aggressive, swears a lot,” Pajack testified.

During cross-examination Pajack told the court Okoth was never physically aggressive towards family members when he got angry.

Defence lawyers disclosed in court they plan to call expert witnesses starting on Monday. Dr. Brian Chaze, a psychiatrist who treated Okoth before the homicide, and Dr. Jeffrey Waldman, who conducted an assessment of the accused’s mental health status, are expected to testify.

The allegations against Okoth have not been proven in court and he’s presumed innocent.

The trial continues. 

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