“Sources have confirmed that Sara Anne Widholm, 76, died at Windsor Regional Hospital on Saturday, Dec. 15,” the Windsor Star reported in 2018, but there was more to the story. What Anne Widholm had endured was worse than death, and accompanied by special treatment for the man who killed her.
On Sunday October 8, 2017, Anne Widholm attended the Riverside Baptist Church, followed by a walk on the nearby Ganatchio Trail. As Anne’s son Kristopher explained, 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. The grandmother had suffered “the worst skull fractures I’ve seen in my 12 years here in Windsor,” the neurosurgeon told reporters. The victim’s lacerated scalp, bruised face and fractured neck vertebrae were “among the most brutal things I’ve seen in my career.”
“Of all things that could have happened to her, the thing she feared the most happened,” daughter Lis Elvborn said in a statement. “It just hurts so much.”
After Widholm passed away from her wounds, 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 never appear in the Windsor Star, the local paper of record. At this writing, not a single photo of Habibullah Ahmadi has appeared in any publication or news website. The Windsor Star had no immediate 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 defenseless grandmother 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 Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Windsor mayor Drew Dilkens, in a statement to the court, found “no reason at all” for the crime, and as he told reporters, “I’m sure, given the opportunity, I could find good in the defendant.” The major, an attorney, seemed unaware that after the guilty verdict Habibullah Ahmadi was no longer a defendant but a convicted murderer.
By all indications, not a single public official called out Habibullah Ahmadi, by name, as a gutless coward and depraved criminal deserving of punishment that matched his crime. No public official proclaimed the need for new measures to prevent this kind of vicious attack from happening again. No public official announced ways the people could protect themselves and their loved ones from this brand of deadly violence.
Justice Bruce 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.” 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, 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 any 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. If anyone thought that was a gross miscarriage of justice it would be hard to blame them, and they could be forgiven for believing it would not lead to peace.
The struggle against brutal murderers like Habibullah Ahmadi is the struggle of memory against forgetting. That is something for the people to ponder, every October 8 and every December 15 moving forward.