By Brad Whitehouse
Associate News Editor
For Sarah Wong, a call from her good friend Carina Petrache was part of her daily ritual. The two had known each other since living next to one another in residence at University of Toronto, and remained pals after Petrache transferred to Ryerson.
Wong moved to Shanghai a year ago, but the 12 hour time difference didn’t stop the friends from talking, even if it meant that Petrache had to make late night phone calls to China. No matter what, they made sure they kept in touch. But one day the calls stopped coming.
“I didn’t think she was in a place of danger,” said Wong, who figured Petrache, a Ryerson psychology and criminology student, had just gotten busy.
She tried calling Petrache and messaging her on Facebook, but didn’t hear from her even a month later. Then Wong got a call from Toronto. It wasn’t Petrache. It was another friend, who told her that 24-year-old Petrache was murdered.
The morning of July 2, Petrache’s next door neighbour, a nun who asked not to be named, heard a woman screaming for help and called 911. The rooming house where Petrache lived was on fire.
“You hear people yelling for help in the street all the time and it’s not serious,” she said. “This was a different kind of yell.”
Firefighters pulled Petrache from the building at Huron and Bloor streets around 10 a.m. and pronounced her dead at the scene. But the fire wasn’t the extent of the tragedy. Police said she died of stab wounds and burns, but wouldn’t confirm neighbours accounts that her throat had been slit.
“When I saw the plain-clothed police and the SWAT team go in, I knew that it was more than just a fire,” said Lynn Jenkins, who lived across the street from Petrache. She said she saw flames coming from the basement windows.
Det. Ian Briggs of Toronto Police Services said Petrache’s boyfriend, Farshad Badakhshan, will be charged with first-degree murder, but charges have yet to be formally laid. Badakhshan was in a coma at Sunnybrook Hospital where he was being treated for burns to most of his body.
At the time of the tragedy, Patrache’s neighbour saw Badakhshan through the kitchen window of the rooming house. She said she knew that something had happened because his shirt was tattered. Her gaze locked with Badakhshan’s. His eyes were glazed over.
But it wasn’t the first time she had seen Badakhshan at the windows. Badakhshan lived in the basement apartment and was often peering out into the laneway. He could see when Petrache was coming and going from the house.
Wong said when Petrache called her, she would say that she couldn’t talk because her boyfriend was listening in. She would whisper on the phone and sometimes leave the house to talk.
Wong will be coming to Toronto this December to visit her friend’s grave. She hasn’t been able to say goodbye yet, and admits that she is in denial that her friend is dead. She makes lists of who she is going to invite to her party when she visits Toronto, and she always includes Petrache’s name out of habit.
In her obituary, Petrache is described as an angel, and Wong fondly remembers one quiet winter night when the two made angels in freshly fallen snow at Queen’s Park.
“She was shy,” said Wong. “She wasn’t a social butterfly, but those who were her friends were very lucky.”
She said that Petrache was just a really sweet girl, who was always concerned about others. She always wanted to make sure that everyone was having a good time and that everyone was doing all right, which is why she called her good friend in China everyday.
The thing Wong is going to miss the most is the phone calls with her friend. When something happens in Shanghai, her first reaction is to call Petrache.
“It’s very hard to find someone who you can talk to about anything,” Wong said. “She was a great listener.”
Petrache’s murder is still under police investigation, and Det. Briggs says it could take at least a couple of years for the case to go to trial. According to police, the case should be resolved quickly in court.