Tenant who killed his rental agent receives life sentence

VANCOUVER — A tenant convicted of murdering his rental agent has been sentenced to life in prison, with no parole eligibility for 10 years.

Diego Alfonso Huerta, 24, a Mexican man who was in Vancouver on a student visa, was found guilty of the March 2017 second-degree murder of Sofien Kazdaghli, 39.

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At the time of the slaying in Huerta’s seventh-floor apartment on the 400 block of Seymour Street, Kazdaghli was acting as the rental agent to Huerta, who was studying social-media marketing at a private college in the city.

In reaching his verdict, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Terence Schultes said that there was no doubt that Huerta caused Kazdaghli’s death by repeatedly stabbing him.

He said the questions in the case were whether Huerta, a quiet, well-mannered young man who normally engaged in activities typical of a student, was, as he claimed, in a dissociative state at the time of the slaying or was acting in self-defence or had been provoked.

On the day of the slaying, Kazdaghli had gone to Huerta’s apartment, which Huerta was sharing with another foreign student and a foreign traveller. One of the roommates testified that he heard a sound like the breaking of plates as well as a male voice scream and groan.

The roommate said he asked Huerta what had happened, but wasn’t sure what Huerta replied.

Huerta cleaned up the scene and dragged the body out into the hallway. He took rental money from Kazdaghli and later disposed of the victim’s wallet and satchel.

Fearing that the police were about to execute a search warrant in the apartment, Huerta attempted to flee the city, but was arrested before he could catch a bus to Kelowna.

The judge found Huerta’s story about what happened implausible and rejected his evidence. He said his conclusions about Huerta’s credibility made it unnecessary to consider at length the claim that he was in a dissociative state.

The Crown argued that having failed to pay his rent and being faced with eviction, Huerta became enraged and attacked the rental agent. The judge wasn’t convinced.

“At the end of the day, we do not know why Mr. Huerta attacked Mr. Kazdaghli,” the judge said. “But I am not required to determine the surrounding facts, much less a motive, if the essential elements of the offence have been proven.”

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