WARNING: This story contains disturbing content
The tragedy unfolded to the sound of sirens, as Langley Township fire trucks converged on a burning home in the Willowbrook neighbourhood.
On the evening of June 13, black smoke poured from a home on Wakefield Drive, and shortly after that, authorities confirmed that three people were dead.
Before long, police officers joined the firefighters, and members of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) had arrived.
It was not, police decided, simply an accidental fire.
Four people had been inside the home that afternoon, IHIT’s Sgt. Frank Jang revealed the following day. One had survived. Two had been inside during the fire, and another had been found in the back yard, with “injuries indicative of homicide.”
By a day after the incident, one death had been ruled a homicide, and police were working to confirm the identifies of the victims found inside the burned-out home.
It would not be until a full month after the killings, on July 13, that Jang would announce an arrest and charges in the case.
Kia Ebrahimian, 24, was charged with three counts of second-degree murder in the death of his sister, 23-year-old Medea ‘Befrin’ Ebrahimian, his mother, Tatiana Bazyar, and his mother’s common-law husband, Francesco Zangrilli.
Before and after charges were laid, memorials formal and informal paid tribute to the lives of those killed.
Dyako Ebrahimian, Medea’s father, held an outdoor memorial service for his daughter to allow her friends to attend despite COVID-19 restrictions.
People left notes near the home, including friends and co-workers at Zangrilli, who had worked at Rogers Sugar.
If convicted, Kia Ebrahimian will be sentenced to life in prison, with parole eligibility determined by the judge, starting at a minimum of 10 years to a maximum of 25 years. He has made several court appearances.
Ebrahimian is now due back in court next spring, with a date set for April 6, 2021 for a preliminary inquiry before a judge in Surrey Provincial Court.
No trial date has been announced yet.
While the trial process began for Ebrahimian, it was nearing an end for KerryAnn Lewis.
In 2018, Lewis was charged with the murder of her seven-year-old daughter, Aaliyah Rosa. The charges were upgraded from second to first degree murder that same year.
The trial finally began in October this year.
Crown lawyers Kristen LeNoble and Christopher McPherson laid out their case on the first day of the trial, on Oct. 26 – they said evidence would show that Lewis first sedated and then drowned Aaliyah in the bathtub of her Langley apartment.
Witnesses in the next few weeks spoke of Lewis’s frustration over a lack of access to her child – she only had partial custody two days a week – a breakup with her boyfriend on the day of Aaliyah’s death, and financial problems related to a so-called “gifting circle” that she had invested $15,000 into.
Over the next several weeks, the court heard from Aaliyah’s father, from Lewis’s ex-boyfriend, and from an off-duty Alberta police officer who found the body, as well as multiple police investigators, store clerks, and paramedics.
The court heard a special hearing via a video link with China to hear from Katrian Yu, a former friend of Lewis.
Lewis would often speak angrily about her ex-husband, Rosa, who had primary custody, Yu testified.
“After she’d vented her anger, she would become very sad, and she would cry a lot,” Yu said, speaking through a translator. “Then she would talk about wanting to die by suicide, and to bring Aaliyah with her, and that that’s the only way that they could be together.”
The trial was scheduled to wrap up before the end of the year, but it was plagued with delays due to COVID-19 exposures and infections among the witnesses, along with health issues for the defendant. Lewis collapsed in court one day in November.
Most of the remaining witnesses were heard in December, and Justice Martha Devlin scheduled more time starting on Jan. 4 to conclude hearing from the final witness, along with any defense arguments.
Devlin is expected to hand down a verdict sometime early in the new year.
There were a number of other high-profile incidents that took place in Langley over 2020 as well.
On January 21, what police described as a brawl broke out at Willowbrook Shopping Centre, and one teenager slammed another in the head with what appeared to be a rifle. A suspect was arrested later that week.
A car linked to a Burnaby murder was dumped and torched on a quiet Willoughby road on Jan. 19, and in an unrelated investigation, the BC SPCA seized 20 animals from a Milner home on the same day.
IHIT investigators were in Langley for the first murder of the year after a man was shot in the parking lot of the Chuck E. Cheese restaurant on 200th Street on Feb. 7.
Ravinder Singh Sandhu, 42, was fatally shot in his car, with his two children still in the back seat. The children were unharmed. During the summer, IHIT issued a plea for tips on the murder.
In July, the trial in another Langley murder wrapped up when Travis MacPhail was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 17 years in the 2017 deaths of Brandy Petrie, 34, and Avery Levely-Flescher, 20.
The two were murdered after MacPhail and a female companion tried to buy drugs using a pre-paid credit card. The victims asked for cash, and MacPhail murdered them with a sawed-off shotgun.
On Sept. 4, David Bryan Tull pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder in the June 9, 2017 murder of Tyler Pastuck outside a Langley restaurant.
On Feb. 23, a naked man in a stolen car went on a hit-and-run spree, slamming into a fence, several vehicles, and a gate in Surrey and Langley before being surrounded and arrested by police. In the middle of the incident, he was caught on video getting out of the car and running around on the side of the road for several minutes, wearing only sneakers. A Kelowna man faced multiple charges.