By: Dylan Freeman-Grist
Farshad Badakhshan murdered Carina Petrache.
It does not feel “good” to type that. On the contrary, it feels horrifying. It is, however, as much of a relief as I can find, typing words into a keyboard.
It’s a relief because I know that today a courtroom on University was not attended by Carina’s step father. It was not attended by the mother of her ex-boyfriend, who loved her like a daughter. For both, as often as they could, sitting in that courtroom was a daily ritual. Almost eight hours a day, five days a week. I hope in the sentencing they found closure. I hope they spent the day at work or at home and forgot.
I never met Carina but I know how she died. I know every gruesome detail. I know because when you cover a murder trial you write it out daily. For everyone else it is simply a nightmare best forgotten. For me it was my second paragraph best memorized if I was to meet deadline.
I hope you’ll forgive me for taking the liberty of not writing it out here.
When I came to journalism school, I had thought about a romantic career in war reporting. Little did I know I’d get first-hand experience covering my first war right here in the city. The Badakhshan trial was not a war with guns or bombs, it was a war with words. But it certainly had blood, and like all wars there was no clear winner and there never would be.
One side pleaded that a narcissistic and evil man had killed Petrache. The other screamed that a system that neglects people with mental illness until it’s too late, let her fall victim to circumstance. Both sides were probably right. Either way, I didn’t care.
Amid the bravado and showmanship of the attorneys, all I could think about was how Carina was one of us. She was a Ryerson student. She had waited in line at the bookstore, she had sat through the lull of morning classes, she may have grabbed a coffee at Balzac’s or had a drink at the Ram with friends. Now for whatever reason, she was gone.
Day in and day out, the finality of that fact ripped me apart.
It’s because she was gone that I went to that courtroom every single day. I skipped class, I forgot about sleep, eating and my normal life. I resolved to tell her story as best as I could. Even if it was just her end, she deserved at least that.
Once I started, living apart from court felt almost disrespectful to her memory. Carina didn’t get to go to lectures, she missed out on growing up with friends. I would catch myself complaining about 8 a.m. classes and remember how she wouldn’t even get a chance to walk across the stage at graduation.
My obsession with every word the psychologists and investigators testified had far more to do with finding some sort of explanation for her death, as opposed to pinning down a correct report to file that day.
I never did. When I finally left the case, the sleepless nights went on.
It disgusts me that in this world a woman like Carina can be so violently taken away from us. It disgust me that the mental health system seems to always fail some one in some way. These things happen every day, every single day, and need to be fixed.
Yet no amount of time spent in that courtroom could conjure up an answer for exactly how to do that. No matter how good at my job I was, it brought no added meaning to the senseless loss of life. I was there to gather facts, and a gradual unease filled me as I realized those facts would dominate Ryerson’s memory of her.
In passing, those who loved her told stories to me at the courthouse. They painted a picture of a woman with an endless capacity to care about others. I prefer to keep that memory, regarding the life lived of a fellow Ram I never got to meet, as opposed to tragic points of her final hours forever seared into my mind.
Those are the kinds of things you can’t fit into a court report, and it’s a damn shame.