Last November Habibullah Ahmadi, 24, was found guilty of second-degree murder in the October 8, 2017, beating of Sara Anne Widholm in Windsor, Ontario. The 75-year-old grandmother did not die until December 17, 2018, but according to Dr. Balraj Jhawar, the beating left her in a “worse state than death.” For this heinous crime, a Tuesday hearing revealed, Habibullah will not receive the worst possible sentence.
“Second-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence,” wrote Trevor Wilhelm in the Windsor Star, but Habibullah Ahmadi would not get a life sentence. Instead the hearing focused on “when Ahmadi should become eligible for parole.” The range is 10 to 25 years, and prosecutor Renee Puskas argued that the convicted murderer “should not become eligible for parole for 14 to 17 years,” at best nearly a decade less than the possible maximum.
The Windsor Star report included no photo of murder victim Anne Widholm and no photo of Habibullah Ahmadi. Indeed, no photo of the murderer has appeared in any report on the crime and trial. In similar style, no public statement has emerged from “Windsor man” Habibullah Ahmadi or any of his family, friends, fellow students or co-workers in the Canadian city.
According to the Star, Widholm suffered from “injuries” including skull fractures, but in a criminal proceeding these amount to “wounds” inflicted by the hand of another. The victim “fell into a coma,” but had actually been beaten into a coma by Habibullah Ahmadi, 21 at the time of the crime.
“High on marijuana and magic mushrooms,” Wilhelm wrote, “he randomly attacked Widholm” as she walked the trail. This ignored the reality that Ahmadi pleaded guilty and the defense failed to prove that marijuana and magic mushrooms played any role. As justice Bruce Thomas said in November, 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.”
The contention that Habibullah Ahmadi “randomly attacked” the grandmother was at odds Dr. Jhawar, who did his best to keep the 75-year-old alive after she suffered the worst wounds he had ever seen. As Dr. Jhawar told the Windsor Star in 2017, it was “not just another random attack.” On Tuesday, the victim impact statements offered other enlightenment.
Ann’s son Kristopher said his mother’s morning walks were “her time to be quiet with herself and to be, as best as she knew how, with God.” On that Sunday morning in 2017, “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.” Anne Widholm was “terrified and no one helped her. She asked for it to stop and was met with no regard.”
Anne Widholm’s worst nightmare, according to daughter Lis Elvborn, was “being closed into a body that didn’t work.” Of all things that could have happened to her, Elvborn wrote, “the thing she feared the most happened. It just hurts so much.”
The Windsor Star report came headlined “Mayor joins family in denouncing Ganatchio Trail killer at sentencing hearing,” but nobody actually denounced Habibullah Ahmadi. Windsor mayor Drew Dilkens wondered how such a “heinous crime” could occur, but in his statement said “there was ultimately no reason at all.” That ignored any possible motive for the crime, and disregarded Dr. Jhawar’s judgement that the killing was not a random attack.
“I strive to find good in everyone,” Dilkens wrote. “I’m told that Sara Anne Widholm did this, too. I’m sure, given the opportunity, I could find good in the defendant.” That ignored the reality that Habibullah Ahmadi was no longer a defendant but a convicted murderer.
The murderer’s attorney, Patricia Brown, sought to have the mayor’s statement tossed on the grounds that his words “crimes like the savage beating of Sara Ann just don’t happen in the City of Windsor,” are inaccurate. As the case proved, savage beatings do indeed happen in Windsor, and in the case of Anne Widholm, the beating led to a fate worse than death.
In court Tuesday Puskas argued that Dilkens’ comments were “as necessary as that of members of the Widholm family.” For his part, justice Thomas ruled the mayor’s statement admissible because it offers “insight into the impact this offence had on the community.” As the mayor wrote, Habibullah Ahmadi’s actions “will take decades for most to reconcile.”
In Windsor, Ontario, somebody named Habibullah Ahmadi can take an innocent life, in the most savage fashion, without his photo and details of his background ever appearing in the media. His motive for murder will remain unexplored and the killer can escape the mandatory life sentence. The prosecutor will recommend release on parole nearly a decade short of the limit.
Ahmadi’s attorney Patricia Brown will doubtless argue for parole in ten years, possibly with credit for the three years for time served. So convicted murderer Habibullah Ahmadi could be out in seven years.
“This is maybe representing a new, dark side of Windsor that we can’t let propagate,” Dr. Jhawar told reporters in 2017. Based on the case to date, the new dark side will propagate. No justice, no peace. What people fear most may soon be upon them.