Farshad Badakhshan has pleaded not guilty to charges of first-degree murder. ILLUSTRATION Courtesy Lucy Weissflog

Accused in flames, witness recalls

In News /

By Jake Scott and Laura Woodward

On the morning of July 2 2010, witness Jai Sarin said he watched alleged murderer Farshad Badakhshan walk down the hall of a Huron Street house as its basement was engulfed in flames.

Sarin, who along with Badakhshan was a resident of 502 Huron St., explained how he walked behind Badakhshan while attempting to extinguish the flames along his back and shoulders with his hands.

“I can’t say what went through my mind, but my body moved toward him very quickly and I tried to pat out the flames with my hands,” Sarin testified in front of a superior court jury on Tuesday, Jan. 28.

Badakhshan, 31, is accused of murdering his then-girlfriend, Ryerson student Carina Petrache, on July 2, 2010.

Badakhshan allegedly stabbed the 23-year-old in her torso before he allegedly proceeded to slit her throat and light her on fire – while also igniting himself and the Annex residence’s basement in the process.

Badakhshan has pleaded not guilty on the grounds that he is not criminally responsible by reason of mental illness.

According to Sarin’s testimony, Badakhshan, referred to as “Shawn,” was walking away from Sarin and into the communal kitchen. Badakhshan then sat on a kitchen chair as Sarin continued to try to put out the flames.

“The clothes were smoldering,” Sarin said. “They were difficult to put out because of the material.”

Sarin noted that Badakhshan was silent when he sat down. It was then that Sarin noticed the body on the floor.

“Carina was in the kitchen as well,” Sarin said. “She was lying on the floor on her side.” Shortly after, Volodymyr Selivanov, another tenant of the Huron Street house and witness in the ongoing murder trial, walked into the room.

“That was when [Selivanov] entered,” Sarin said. “I’ll never forget the look on his face. He was stunned. His jaw dropped and then froze. That was when I tried to snap him out of it. I said, ‘Get meĀ [a] blanket and dial 911.'”

Selivanov testified in front of a jury on Jan. 27.

Prior to this incident, Sarin said he saw “subtle tension and power dynamics” between the accused and the victim.

“My judgment of that interaction was one of bullying,” he said.

Two other witnesses took the stand on Tuesday – 46-year-old Ngawang Sangpo testified that he witnessed Selivanov pull Petrache from the burning building after bringing out his computer.

The other witness, Steve Masse, was questioned about his prior testimony.

“[Selivanov] went back into the house and dragged the girl out.

He was literally dragging the girl, holding her two hands,” Sangpo said. “She was burned. She was wearing a bra and tight shorts. The clothes were sticking to her flesh. I recognized her as a resident of the first floor.” After leaving the burning building, Sangpo said he walked around the outside of the house to see if there were any other residents inside.

“I saw the basement on fire – fire meaning something making smoke – and the basement window was broken like someone had hit it,” Sangpo said.

Sangpo said he saw a man through the kitchen window moments later. He said the man made no attempts to escape the flames or open the window.

Sangpo was unable to identify the man because his face was “too black, not like skin.” Badakhshan suffered severe burns and has had skin-grafting operations since the incident. He now requires a wheelchair.

The trial continues.

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