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NV man gets life sentence for axe murder

Immigrant had beaten deportation order despite 6 violent crimes

A North Vancouver axe murderer has been sent to jail for life with no possibility of parole for 25 years.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Barry Davies handed Babak Najafi-Chaghabouri, 30, the mandatory sentence for first-degree murder Friday morning for the killing of fellow drug dealer Ronak "Ronny" Wagad on Feb. 23, 2009.

Najafi-Chaghabouri killed Wagad with a hatchet at a remote site near the Fraser River just one week after winning an appeal of a deportation order.

Davies sentenced a second man, Charles Anthony Leslie, 34, to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 16 years after finding him guilty of second-degree murder in the killing.

Both men were also sentenced to 15 years in jail for kidnapping Wagad prior to killing him. Those sentences will be served at the same time as the jail time for the murder.

In handing down the sentences, Davies described the actions of the two men as "horrendous."

The sentences follow a lengthy trial in which both men pointed to the other as responsible for the gruesome killing.

Davies ruled both men were ultimately responsible for Wagad's death, but Najafi-Chaghabouri was the one who wielded the hatchet for the fatal blows after Leslie refused to go through with the killing.

Davies found that in Wagad's final moments, Leslie handed the hatchet to Najafi-Chaghabouri, who killed Wagad by striking him on the neck and back of the head at least five times with the weapon.

The judge found although Najafi-Chaghabouri actually killed Wagad, the killing would likely not have happened if Leslie hadn't planned and carried out the kidnapping.

Key evidence in the trial came from Travis Winterlik, an accomplice of Najafi-Chaghabouri and Leslie, who helped lead police to Wagad's remains and testified in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

Ali Reza Alamdari, who was Najafi-Chaghabouri's roommate in North Vancouver, testified that Najafi-Chaghabouri confessed that he'd killed Wagad, saying he had "hit the man in the head with an axe."

Another witness, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, described how Najafi-Chaghabouri said he'd made Wagad kneel on the ground in front of the car before taking the hatchet to his head.

Both Alamdari and the witness who can't be named are drug addicts whose recollection of events was questioned by defence lawyers during cross-examination in the trial.

In a sentencing hearing earlier this fall, Najafi-Chaghabouri's defence lawyer told the judge how Najafi-Chaghabouri grew up in a Kurdish area of Iran where he was persecuted by local authorities. He later came to Canada as a refugee.

Once in the Lower Mainland, however, Najafi-Chaghabouri racked up convictions for six violent criminal offences, including stabbing a man in a North Vancouver Persian restaurant.

Najafi-Chaghabouri was ordered deported, but won a reprieve to stay in Canada just one week before he and Leslie kidnapped Wagad and killed him.

Lawyers have previously indicated it's likely Najafi-Chaghabouri plans to appeal his murder conviction.

Prosecutors are also appealing Leslie's conviction of second-degree murder, arguing it should have been first-degree.

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