Last Friday, Habibullah Ahmadi, 24, was found guilty of second-degree murder in the October 8, 2017, beating of Sara Anne Widholm in Windsor, Ontario. Justice Bruce Thomas referred to a “savage” beating Ahmadi “knew was likely to cause her death.”
As the trial revealed, Habibullah Ahmadi approached Anne Widholm, punched her in the face, then delivered repeated blows before picking her up and repeatedly “slamming her head into the ground.” Anne Widholm’s face was unrecognizable, her skull “crumbled,” and she fell into a state “worse state than death,” according to Dr. Balraj Jhawar. In 2017, the neurosurgeon told the Windsor Star the multiple brain hemorrhages, fractured skull and vertebrae were “among the most brutal things I’ve seen in my career,” and “not just another random attack.”
Habibullah Ahmadi fled the scene, scaled a six foot barbed-wire fence and hid in the bushes. When police arrested the suspect, he was covered in Widholm’s blood. Habibullah Ahmadi was first charged with aggravated assault, changed to attempted murder after Widholm died from her injuries in December of 2018.
News reports described Habibullah Ahmadi as a “Windsor man,” also known as “Danny.” The accused made no public statements and nothing from any relative, friend, fellow student or colleague appeared in local media. At this writing, no photo of Habibullah Ahmadi has appeared in any report on the case. This stood in stark contrast to other murder cases in the city, and even juvenile defendants got more publicity.
Anne Widholm’s autopsy was never made public and details of the attack came from Dr. Jhawar, not police or media. A trial reportedly slated for January, 2019, did not take place. On November 25, 2019, a Windsor Star report claimed a preliminary hearing ended two months earlier, but news stories provided no testimony or evidence. Ahmadi pleaded not guilty and during the trial his possible motive for attacking a grandmother of 75, out walking after church on a Sunday morning, grew more obscure.
“Elderly woman hit young man first – then she was killed, trial hears on final day,” read the headline on the September 18 Windsor Star report. Ahmadi told police he was “scared” of the woman then said he was only trying to help her. According to testimony, the martial arts enthusiast Ahmadi only began punching Widholm in the face after she swung a bag at him. This allegedly “triggered” the savage attack that followed.
Habibullah Ahmadi also claimed he was high on “magic mushrooms,” which according to his attorney Patricia Brown relieved Ahmadi of responsibility for his “involuntary actions.”
Brown argued that Habibullah was in a state of “extreme intoxication,” lacked intent, and therefore bears no “moral blameworthiness” for the “unfortunate” attack. Judge Thomas wasn’t going for it.
“I am satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Daniel Ahmadi had the intention to cause Sara Anne Widholm bodily harm,” Thomas said, “that he knew was likely to cause her death, and that he was clearly reckless as to whether death ensued.” The reference to “Daniel” Ahmadi might have left observers puzzled.
From the start, the “Windsor man” had been Habibullah “Danny” Ahmadi. Now he is Daniel Ahmadi, and only his “formal first name” is Habibullah. His attorney said Habibullah was “in shock” over the verdict, but the convicted murderer made no statement on his own. News reports showed a photo of two Ahmadi “supporters,” but not Habibullah Ahmadi his own self.
Only a single photo of Anne Widholm appeared in online media, and some reports describe her only as a “senior,” leaving out her name, age, gender and status as a grandmother. Feminists did not decry the deadly attack on Anne Widholm 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. Also silent were current Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The case leaves more than a reasonable doubt about the rue motive for the murder of Anne Widholm. Habibullah Ahmadi will be sentenced on January 11, 2021, and observers have good reason to mark their calendar.
Bruce Thomas was the judge in the case of nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer, who murdered eight elderly patients with overdoses of insulin. In 2017, Thomas sentenced Wettlaufer to life with possibility of parole after 25 years. That works out to some three years for each murder.
Given his preferential treatment thus far, Habibullah Ahmadi stands a good chance of getting off light. People in Windsor might wonder if the case is a one-off, or if more murderous violence is in the works. Dr. Jhawar has already weighed in.
“We can’t tolerate this,” he told reporters. “This is not just another assault. This is maybe representing a new, dark side of Windsor that we can’t let propagate.” Prospects for the success of such vigilance might be gauged by the sentence Habibullah Ahmadi receives. No justice usually means no peace.