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Toronto man killed his mother and decapitated her — but it wasn’t murder, lawyers argue

A ‘lifetime of abuse’ led Dallas Ly to snap and stab his mother inside a Leslieville apartment in 2022 but he never intended to kill her, his defence lawyer said during closing arguments at his murder trial on Thursday.

Ly, 23, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the death of his mother, Tien Ly. Tien died after being stabbed multiple times at a residence at Carlaw Avenue and Dundas Street East residence in March 2022.

The 46-year-old woman was found nearby, decapitated and her body parts placed in three garbage bags, according to autopsy reports.

“Mr, Ly admitted from the beginning of this trial that he caused his mother’s death,” Assistant defence lawyer Jay Spare told the jury at the start of Thursday’s closing arguments. “[He] has never tried to justify what he did, he’s only tried to explain his state of mind.”

Ly was arrested on April 2, 2022 near Yonge and Dundas streets.

Over the course of his trial, and in Thursday’s closing arguments, lawyers for Ly have argued that he suffered years of abuse at the hands of Tien, who asserted significant control over her son’s life.

Last week, Ly told the jury his mother would beat him with shoes, her fists and a wooden backscratcher that left scars. She would also often call him stupid and lazy, he testified.

“She was cruel and she abused him,” Spare told the jury, adding that, until the spring of 2022, Ly had never fought back against his mother, describing him as a “soft-spoken” and “mild-mannered” individual.

“He was raised to keep [his mother’s conduct] a secret. He believed it was normal, [..] that he deserved it,” Spare said.

On the day of the homicide, Ly testified that he’d expressed a desire to move out of his mother’s house, causing his mother to strike him in the face. In a moment of “fear and overwhelm,” as described by Ly’s lawyers, he stabbed his mother with a hunting knife pulled from his backpack.

During his time in the witness box, Ly called the incident a “bit of a blur.”

“I saw red everywhere, I don’t know how many times I stabbed her,” he told the court.

Ly told the jury he at first failed to believe the incident had been real — that he spent several hours lying in bed after the act, and even tried to call his mother phones multiple times. But as time passed, he said that the reality came into focus.

Ly then said he panicked, decapitating his mother’s corpse before loading it into a shopping cart in garbage bags and attempting to dispose of it on the nearby roadside.

His lawyers have argued his actions were in part explained by an ongoing diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), caused by years of abuse. Called by the defence, Dr. Mitesh Patel, a psychiatrist at Youthdale Treatment Centre, said that he found evidence of a “significant and long-standing” history of severe child abuse and neglect.

He also found that Ly was suffering from PTSD and major depressive disorder when he killed his mother and that the diagnoses could have played a role on the night he killed his mother.

While prosecutors conceded to the jury that Ly had indeed been subject to “severe childhood abuse,” they have called into question whether he’d suffered from the condition prior to the homicide and suggested it possible that Ly had developed PTSD as a result of the homicide.

The prosecution is expected to begin its closing arguments on Thursday afternoon.

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