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Man charged with murder in 2020 mosque stabbing found not criminally responsible

The International Muslims Organization building is seen in Toronto Sunday, June 4, 2006. A man accused of killing a 58-year-old Muslim man outside a Toronto mosque has been found not criminally responsible in the case. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Derek Oliver

A man accused of killing a 58-year-old Muslim man outside a Toronto mosque has been found not criminally responsible in the case.  

Guilherme (William) Von Neutegem had been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Mohamed-Aslim Zafis, who was stabbed outside the International Muslim Organization in west Toronto on Sept. 12, 2020.

The Ministry of the Attorney General said Von Neutegem was found not criminally responsible by an Ontario court on Friday.

Bebi Zafis, Mohamed-Aslim Zafis' only daughter, wrote in a victim impact statement that she's been profoundly affected by her father's death. 

"I know that no punishment will ever be enough for what this man has done to my father," she wrote. 

"There is no room in Canada for people who commit such violent acts and then questionably use mental health as their defence for what they have done."

Von Neutegem's case has been referred to the Ontario Review Board. The board decides if and how not criminally responsible patients should be detained.

Bebi Zafis described her father as a caring and loving parent who checked in on her daily. 

"I am here today without the love and support of my father because he was murdered,” she wrote. "He came forward to give me the love and support I desperately needed."

Zafis, who also lost her mother in a car accident months before her father's death, said she lives in constant fear and has been left "broken" by what happened. 

Psychiatric reports filed with the court said Von Neutegem was diagnosed with schizophrenia. 

One of the reports said he was suffering from schizophrenia when he carried out the attack, and up to two years prior, but he was not diagnosed or treated for the mental illness at the time. 

Von Neutegem said he started hearing male voices around five months before his arrest giving him instructions from "higher dimensions" that it was time for him "to find someone to kill," one psychiatric report said. 

Von Neutegem said he thought it was not generally fine to kill a person but felt he had to comply with the command because it was coming from "higher planes," the report said. 

"It’s not up to a person to decide who lives and dies ... it’s up to the higher guiding of things, God or the universe," he was quoted saying in a report by Dr Alina Iosif, a forensic psychiatrist. 

The Canadian Anti-Hate Network had alleged that Von Neutegem was linked with a neo-Nazi group after reviewing his social media accounts following the attack. But he rejected any hate toward Muslims, according to the report. 

"He indicated that he had 'basic knowledge' regarding Islam but no feelings of animosity against it," Iosif wrote. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 29, 2023. 

Sharif Hassan, The Canadian Press

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