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Six-year sentence sought for 'senseless' beating death of taxi driver

A Yellowknife teen who beat an on-duty taxi driver to death in a “brutal” and “senseless” act of “uncontrollable rage” should be jailed for six years, prosecutors argue.

Elias Schiller, 19, is facing six years in prison for the brutal beating death of longtime City Cab driver Ahmed Mahamud Ali, 73, on Nov. 19, 2018. Schiller's second-degree murder charge was downgraded to manslaughter last year. NNSL file photo

Elias Schiller pleaded, 19, guilty to manslaughter in October.

Originally charged with second-degree murder, Schiller, then 18, was arrested on Nov. 19 2018 - just hours after longtime City Cab driver Ahmed Mahamud Ali, 73, was found deceased in the backseat of his still-running cab outside the former Stanton Territorial Hospital.

Many of the details surrounding the slaying of Ali were heard for the first time in a crowded courtroom - packed with friends and family of the beloved taxi driver - Monday morning.

Around 3:20 a.m. on Nov. 19, 2018, according to an agreed statement of facts, Ali picked Schiller up from Fraser Arms Apartments before driving him to his Wilkinson Crescent home, which he shared with his father, 51-year-old James Schiller.

In the driveway of the Schillers’ home, an argument ensued between Ali and the younger Schiller. Ali shoved the young man, angering him. Ali then exited his cab and ran away. Elias Schiller chased him, catching up with him in the cul-de-sac of Wilkinson Crescent. There, he assaulted Ali.

Elias Schiller left Ali laying in the snow.

In the 25 minutes that followed, the teen went back and forth from where Ali was laying and his house.

Elias Schiller and his father James then made the decision to drive Ali to the hospital, the court heard. The younger Schiller moved Ali by his head into the backseat of the taxi. James Schiller, alone, then drove the taxi to the hospital, parking at the emergency room parking lot.

Both men mistakenly believed Ali was still alive at the time James Schiller drove him to the hospital, according to the agreed statement of facts.

The 73-year-old was in fact dead.

An autopsy later revealed Ali died as a result of neck compression and blunt head trauma.

At approximately 4:07 a.m., James Schiller left Ali in the backseat of the cab, which was still running with the heat on. He did not go inside the hospital to alert staff. Instead, leaving the area on foot, he called hospital staff from a payphone.

Using an accent to disguise his voice, James Schiller advised hospital staff there was a man bleeding in a taxi cab outside. The call caused confusion among staff, and Ali’s body wasn’t discovered until some 25 minutes later. Staff, along with another cab driver who had been sent by a City Cab dispatcher to check on the status of Ali, found Ali’s body in the backseat.

Less than four hours later, James Schiller shovelled snow from his yard out onto the cul-de-sac in a “botched attempt” to cover up the blood at the scene of the assault.

In October of last year, the older Schiller pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact to aggravated assault. He was also originally charged with second-degree murder. Following a preliminary inquiry held in May, he and son's charges were downgraded.

At 9:10 a.m. on Nov. 19, 2018, Yellowknife RCMP went to Wilkinson Crescent and found two spots of blood and a toque laying in the snow. Elias Schiller was arrested and charged with murder around 10 a.m. that same morning. In a statement to police, he said he did not mean to kill Ali, and expressed remorse. The younger man told RCMP he did not rob Ali.

“In a fit of uncontrollable rage, Elias chased (Ali) down and viciously beat him to death on a public street,” said prosecutor Jill Andrews.

“This was a horrific crime that sent shock waves through our community,” said Andrews.

“There is no explanation for this violent and senseless crime,” she added.

There was no evidence of a robbery - no evidence of a motive in the killing of Ali, she told the court.

As a cab driver working alone and at night, Ali was particularly vulnerable.

Elias Schiller's lawyer, Lance McClean, is calling for a four-year sentence.

Both the Crown and the defence are calling for a six-month jail sentence for James Schiller. With credit for pre-trial custody - six months - that would amount to time served.

Friends and family of the late cab driver - known affectionately as a "Uncle Ahmed'- shared victim impact statements Monday.

Many of them are cab drivers themselves.

Ali was described as a kind and hardworking man, a "pillar" of city's taxi community who provided financial support to family members and orphans in Somalia.

Several cab drivers said they now drive in fear following the death of Ali, a veteran driver of 20-plus years who they often turned to for advise.

'This nightmare will never end,' wrote one friend.

A total of 14 victim impact statements were submitted to the court.