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Sundre man using not criminally responsible defence for murdering McDonald's worker

Calgary court hears Solaimane Elbettah admit to killing fellow Sundre McDonald's worker Josh Burns with machete
Solaimane Elbettah, facing the camera, and Josh Burns in the Sundre McDonald's restaurant prior to Burns' death on July 4.

A 19-year-old Sundre McDonald’s male employee was killed by a neck wound struck by a fellow employee with a 17-inch machete early on the morning on July 4, 2022, the accused’s Court of King’s Bench trial in Calgary heard Monday.

Solaimane Elbettah faces a first degree murder charge in the death of Josh Burns, 19.

Justice Glen Poelman is presiding over the judge-alone trial, which is scheduled to run until at least March 1.

At the start of proceedings Monday, the accused pleaded not guilty to the charge of first degree murder. 

His lawyer, Pawel Milczarek, told Justice Poelman that he will be making a not criminally responsible (NCR) defence.

In an agreed statement of facts read into court, Crown prosecutor Vince Pingitore said the accused brought the weapon into the restaurant and used it to kill Burns.

The two men were the only people working at the restaurant at the time, with only the drive-thru open.

“It is not in dispute that the accused committed the act of killing (Burns) using a machete and causing a large, deep wound to his neck, and thereby causing his death,” said Pingitore.

The accused was 27 years old at the time of the killing and employed as a manager at the restaurant. Burns, a Sundre resident, started work at local McDonald's on June 11, 2022. He graduated from Innisfail High School in 2021.

On the night of the killing, the accused left the restaurant at about 11:47 p.m. and went to his room at a nearby motel, Pingitore said.

“While at home the accused retrieved a black bag containing a Gerber brand machete with a 17 inch blade,” he said. “The accused returned to McDonald's at approximately 11:55 p.m. with the black bag and proceeded to the manager’s office.

“While in that office he pulled out that machete and proceeded towards the kitchen where the decedent was working. The accused moved from the manager’s office to the kitchen with the machete.

“While in the kitchen the accused caused the decedent’s death using the machete. The totality of their interaction which resulted in the decedent’s death lasted less than one minute.”

Burns fell to the floor “where he was left by the accused," he said.

“It is an admitted fact that the accused used the machete to create a significant injury to the throat of the decedent. This act of the accused caused the death of the decedent.”

A video surveillance recording from inside the restaurant was also played in court. It shows the accused pull the machete out of a bag, walk towards the accused, and less than a minute later, walk back into the frame, put the machete back into the bag and leave the restaurant.

The actual attack was not shown on the video. The Crown says the attack took place at about 12:05 a.m.

The victim was declared dead on scene.

The statement of fact also included the wording of three text messages the accused sent to his McDonald’s manager.

One sent at 12:18 a.m. on July 4, 2022 reads: Hi (the manager’s name) there was a murder a(t) the restaurant don’t walk in by yourself call the cops sorry about everything.”

Another sent at 12:20 a.m. reads: “He was insulting me and he was thinking he is better than me because he his wight.”

Another set at 12:20 reads: “We are all equal.”

A 911 call made by the accused shortly after the killing was also played in court.

During that call the accused said, “I killed someone at the restaurant. I killed him with a knife. I cut his throat. His name is Josh.”

A transcript of the 911 call was provided to media.

The RCMP dispatcher asked the accused, “Who is it that you stabbed?”

Elbettah replied: “It was one of the staff. He was insulting me. And I fucking killed him because they’ll try and make me look like a joke and that’s a really bad thing. Why, because I’m a Muslim. I’m not their religion.”

A video was played showing several RCMP officers with guns drawn approaching and arresting the accused in a field outside Sundre.

Dr. Akmal Coetzee-Khan of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Calgary conducted an autopsy on the body of the decedent on July 6, 2022.

The agree statement of facts reads: “Examination revealed an open gaping cut/chop type of wound to the anterior neck measuring approximately 28 by eight cm in dimensions. Some of the edges appeared jagged and torn, others appeared smooth.  

“The wound penetrated inwards and backwards into the neck severing and injuring the anterior neck muscles, larynx, thyroid cartilage, upper esophagus, both carotid arteries and both jugular veins terminating at the level of the anterior cervical vertebral body.” 

Family members of the victim were in court Monday to watch the proceedings. Several cried while listening to the 911 call.

During Monday’s sitting, the accused spoke to his lawyer several times and appeared to attentively follow the court proceedings.

Prosecutor Pingitore said the Crown intends to introduce a number of documents, including medical records of the accused.

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