‘I feel bad for him’: Gas-and-dash victim’s mother reacts to 11-year sentence

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Before Joshua Mitchell was sentenced to 11 years in prison for killing Maryam Rashidi in a Calgary gas-and-dash theft, he fought back tears as he offered an apology to his victim’s family and acknowledged the pain and suffering he’s caused.

“If I had the chance to replace Miss Rashidi, I would,” said Mitchell.

Rashidi’s mother and brother travelled from Iran for the court hearing. They sobbed as the sentence was handed down by Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Alan Macleod, but Rashidi’s mother, Kobra Mohmmadi, offered words of kindness to Mitchell and his family afterwards.

“I feel bad for him. I’m a mom and I feel bad for his mom as well,” Mohmmadi said in Farsi as family friend Gina Masnadi translated.

“She was alone but she died for the things that she believed.”

Maryam Rashidi family

Maryam Rashidi’s brother Mohammad, her mother, Kobra Mohmmadi, and family friend Gina Masnadi speak after Joshua Mitchell was sentenced to 11 years in prison. (Meghan Grant/CBC)

Earlier this year, Mitchell was found guilty of manslaughter for running over Rashidi, who was working as a gas station attendant at the Centex station on June 7, 2015. Rashidi died trying to stop Mitchell from stealing $113 in fuel.

Rashidi’s family tragedy didn’t stop with her death. Two years later, while travelling to Calgary to mark the anniversary of his wife’s death, Ahmad Nourani Shallo was killed in a car accident, leaving his eight-year-old son an orphan.

“I think all of us, our hearts go out to the family of Maryam, including, I’m sure, Mr. Mitchell’s [family],” said Macleod in handing down his sentence.

But before he died, Shallo wrote a victim impact statement that was read aloud in court at Mitchell’s sentencing hearing on Wednesday.

“Somethings that you lose can be recovered over time … other losses are immeasurable,” he wrote.

“For instance, the loss of the innocence of a child when his mother is taken from him.”

On June 8, 2017, just weeks after the guilty verdict, Shallo was travelling to Calgary from his new home in Vancouver with his son, Koorosh, and his second wife when they crashed on the Trans-Canada Highway near Golden, B.C.

A poem for Maryam

Shallo died while Koorosh, 8, who was asleep in the back seat, suffered minor injuries. The wife underwent several surgeries but was expected to make a full recovery.

In his statement, Shallo wrote it was Rashidi who wanted to move to Canada, believing she would be able to give her son a better life here.

Shallo said he resisted the pleas of his family to return to Iran because, “I believe that is what Maryam would have wanted.”

Weeks before Shallo died, he wrote a poem for his wife:

Your arms around made me feel like home but it is a very long time.

I am homesick.

Maryam Rashidi

Maryam Rashidi and her husband, Ahmad Nourani Shallo, with their son, Koorosh, in an undated family photo. (Rashidi family)

Rashidi’s brother Mohammad also wrote a victim impact statement which was read by the prosecutor.

“Maryam was a genius girl,” Mohammad Rashidi said of his sister, who studied chemical engineering at the best university in Iran.

“Now she’s far, far away from us.”

Mohammad said his mother’s health has deteriorated since she learned of her daughter’s death and began following the news coverage of the trial.

“In the midnights I still hearing that my mother is crying in the night.”

Maryam Rashidi

Maryam Rashidi, right, as a child with her siblings in Iran. Her brother Mohammad Rashidi called his sister a ‘genius girl.’ (Rashidi family)

Rashidi and her husband had moved from Iran with their six-year-old son for engineering jobs in the oil and gas industry, but were laid off after just four months. She had taken the job at the Centex station to help make ends meet and was working her fourth shift when she was killed.

In May, jurors were visibly emotional as they delivered their verdict, finding Mitchell — who was on trial for second-degree murder — guilty of the lesser offence of manslaughter.

At least four of the jurors from the trial showed up for Wednesday’s sentencing.

Prosecutors James Thomas and Jonathan Hak had sought a 12-year sentence: 10 years for the manslaughter plus two years for the hit and run conviction.

Mitchell’s lawyer Kim Ross said a sentence in the range of seven to eight years would be appropriate with a five- to seven-year driving prohibition.

“He takes full responsibility for his actions,” said Ross. “He obviously can’t take back what has happened.”

“[Mitchell] is extremely remorseful for what’s happened and is willing to take, and wants to take, any course of action that he can, any programs, educational programs that will assist him.”

3+ years credit for time served

Mitchell drove away without paying for $113 in fuel on June 7, 2015. Rashidi chased the stolen Ford F-350.

Rashidi tried to stop the fleeing truck, which was impeded by traffic on 16th Avenue N.W., by climbing on its hood. Mitchell attempted to jostle her off but she fell under the vehicle, which then drove over her, causing fatal injuries.

The jurors’ manslaughter verdict meant they believed Mitchell didn’t intend to kill Rashidi.

Mitchell will get three years and four months credit for the time he has already served.

A lifetime driving prohibition was also imposed. Thomas pointed out Mitchell was on bail for dangerous driving offences when he killed Rashidi.

“He should absolutely not be behind the wheel ever again.”

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‘I feel bad for him’: Gas-and-dash victim’s mother reacts to 11-year sentence

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