Man in first incel-inspired terrorist conviction in Ontario gets life in prison

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Published November 28, 2023 at 3:09 pm

A man who pleaded guilty to the incel-inspired murder of a Toronto massage parlour employee sought out the ideology that led him to commit a “horrific crime,” an Ontario judge said Tuesday in sentencing him to life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years.

Though the man was 17 when he carried out the brutal attack with a sword in February 2020, sentencing him as a youth – which would cap the sentence at 10 years behind bars – would be “insufficient” to hold him accountable, Justice Sukhail Akhtar told the court.

The stabbing that killed 24-year-old Ashley Noelle Arzaga and seriously injured a woman identified only by the initials J.C. was motivated by a violent and misogynistic ideology, the judge said.

The man, who cannot be identified because he was underage at the time of the attack, “committed the crime after extensively researching the incel culture,” Akhar said.

“I do not accept his … attempt at avoiding responsibility by claiming that he was brainwashed by that culture. He sought it out, he accepted it and he acted upon it,” the judge said.

The man has also been sentenced to three years behind bars for the attempted murder of J.C., to be served concurrently.

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He pleaded guilty last year to first-degree murder and attempted murder. Akhtar later ruled the attack to be an act of terrorism due to its links to so-called “incel” ideology, which stands for “involuntary celibate,” a fringe internet subculture dominated by men who blame women for their lack of sexual relations.

The man told investigators he was inspired by earlier “incel” inspired attacks such as the similarly-motivated 2018 Toronto van attack and the 2014 killings in Isla Vista, California. The perpetrators of both these attacks, “claimed their misogynistic views to be the prime motivation for their acts of murder and violence.”

Likewise, the machete he used to kill Arzaga was emblazoned with “THOT SLAYER.” The insult “thot” is commonly used in incel circles to denigrate women. Furthermore he carried a note describing an “incel rebellion.”

It’s believed to be the first time in Canada that a court has made a finding of incel-motivated terrorist activity.

Prosecutors wanted to have him sentenced as an adult, noting he was six months shy of turning 18 at the time and meticulously researched, planned and made choices surrounding the attack that reflected adult thoughts and actions. They also argued he has shown no remorse.

Adults found guilty of first-degree murder face an automatic life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years, but the parole ineligibility is lower for youth sentenced as adults.

The defence, meanwhile, sought to have the man sentenced under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, which sets a limit of 10 years.

At a hearing last month, the man apologized to Arzaga’s family and friends, and to the surviving victim. The man, now 20, also said he has changed and no longer hates women.

“I’ve come to realize that life is so much more than just internet negativity … I wish I could travel back in time and talk some sense into my former self,” he said.

The court heard he planned to seek out women to violently attack with a 17-inch sword after he was radicalized with misogynistic views online.

It also heard J.C. managed to take the sword from him and incapacitate him, which prosecutors said brought the attack to an end. The woman suffered stab wounds, lacerations to both hands and nerve damage as she fought, court heard.

In their victim impact statements, Arzaga’s siblings had asked Akhtar to consider the safety of their family’s surviving members and the safety of other women in his sentencing decision.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 28, 2023.

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press


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