“Windsor man sentenced to life in prison for killing of Sara Anne Widholm on Ganatchio Trail,” read the headline on the February 4 CBC report, but there was a problem. The “Windsor man” would not be spending his life in prison, and it wasn’t even close.
Last Thursday, justice Bruce Thomas told the court Habibullah Ahmadi would be eligible for parole after 13 years. That fell short of what the prosecution wanted and a full 12 years less than the maximum of 25 years. If the murderer gains credit for time served, Habibullah Ahmadi could be out in 10 years, the minimum required by law, for one of the most brutal murderers in Canadian history.
On October 8, 2017, Anne Widholm was walking on the Ganatchio trail after church. As Anne’s son Kristopher explained in his statement to the court, his mother’s morning walks were “her time to be quiet with herself and to be, as best as she knew how, with God.” That day, “she crossed paths with a person who made a choice to destroy her despite her fear and her protest, and despite her inability to inflict any kind of pain on the attacker.”
Habibullah Ahmadi, 21, attacked the defenseless 75-year-old grandmother, repeatedly slamming her head to the ground and literally beating her into a coma. It was “a worse state than death,” according to Dr. Balraj Jhawar, who did his best to keep Widholm alive despite the worst wounds the neurosurgeon had ever seen.
“Of all things that could have happened to her, the thing she feared the most happened,” daughter Lis Elvborn said in her victim statement. “It just hurts so much.”
Anne Widholm died in December of 2018 and the initial charge of aggravated assault was changed to second-degree murder, which carries an automatic life sentence. The trial was repeatedly delayed and from the start little emerged about Habibullah Ahmadi and his motive for killing a grandmother of 75 out for a stroll after church.
At age 21, Habibullah Ahmadi was a full adult, but his booking photo did not appear in the Windsor Star. As it happens, not a single photo of Habibullah Ahmadi has appeared in any publication or news website. On February 4 and 5, the Windsor Star had no report on the sentencing of Habibullah Ahmadi. In her own city, the murder victim had become a non-person.
The CBC story showed only the Ganatchio Trail sign and a February 4 iHeart radio report bore a photo of a police car and the trail gate, with no people present. The report was headlined, “Windsor man sentenced to life in prison for ‘brutal attack’ on elderly Windsorite,” with murderer and victim unnamed. In similar style, no public statement emerged from “Windsor man” Habibullah Ahmadi or any of his family, friends, fellow students or co-workers, before or after the trial.
Habibullah Ahmadi pleaded not guilty and his possible motive for attacking a grandmother of 75, out walking after church on a Sunday morning, escaped attention during the trial. Ahmadi claimed he was high on marijuana and magic mushrooms, that he blacked out, and that he was afraid of Anne Widholm.
Canadian feminists did not decry the deadly attack as an example of toxic masculinity or violence against women. Then-Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, who has often spoken out on bullying, offered no statement. The case also escaped the notice of current Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“I strive to find good in everyone,” wrote Windsor mayor Drew Dilkens in a statement to the court, and “I could find good in the defendant.” The major seemed unaware that after the guilty verdict, Habibullah Ahmadi was no longer a defendant but a convicted murderer.
Justice Thomas told the court Ahmadi “had the intention to cause Sara Anne Widholm bodily harm” and was “likely to cause her death, and that he was clearly reckless as to whether death ensued.” On Thursday Thomas said people in the community “can find no apparent motive,” for the attack, and motive is central to any murder trial.
Police initially charged that Habibullah Ahmadi “randomly attacked” Anne Widholm, but as Dr. Jhawar told the Windsor Star in 2017, it was “not just another random attack.” As the surgeon explained, “this is maybe representing a new, dark side of Windsor that we can’t let propagate.” The people have cause to wonder.
In Windsor, Ontario, Canada, somebody named Habibullah Ahmadi, can beat a frail grandmother into a coma, a fate worse than death, and dodge any serious probe of his motive. Unlike other violent criminals in Canada, Habibullah can avoid the publication of his booking photo and exposure of his background.
For one of the most brutal murders in Canadian history, Habibullah Ahmadi escapes the automatic life sentence. Habibullah will be eligible for parole after 13 years, with 10 years a distinct possibility. With such a light sentence, the new dark side of Windsor could well be propagating far sooner than anyone expected. No justice, no peace.