Sitting in a small room in the Brampton, Ont., courthouse where Mira Lewandowki appeared via Zoom, the retired mother of two described how she begged her younger daughter to end the relationship with a much older man she believed was a drug dealer.
That man, Joseph Chang, is on trial for the murder of 25-year-old Alicia Lewandowski.
Chang has been in custody since the 39-year-old was arrested on the evening March 5, 2018, 14 hours after Alicia Lewandowski was fatally shot in the visitor parking lot behind the Rathburn and Dixie Road townhouse where Alicia lived with her mother.
Mira, who was testifying at the judge-alone trial, told Madam Justice Jennifer Woollcombe that Alicia struggled with drugs, dating back to 2011, but was doing “really well and was on the right track” in her recovery.
Mira said when Alicia met Chang in the fall of 2014, her daughter wouldn’t divulge much to her about what he did.
In the spring of 2015, her older daughter Natalie said, “‘Mom, do you know he’s a drug dealer? She said, ‘Ya, he’s a drug dealer, Alicia told me.’ I was devastated. Obviously having a child who has that problem, it’s the last person you want them to be in a relationship with,” Mira testified.
Mira told the court she expressed to Chang how much she hated drug dealers and said if it wasn’t for them, people who suffered from substance abuse wouldn’t have access to the drugs.
Mira said Chang reassured her that he didn’t sell to children, and allegedly told her, “I sell to people who are professionals. People who tend to use it recreationally.”
She also testified she begged her daughter to end the relationship not only because of his work, but also due to the age gap.
“I just felt he isolated Alicia and kept her away from us. That grew to be a very sore point with me,” she said.
Mira also recalled an incident in July 2016 in which police were called to an apartment where the couple were staying on Mabelle Avenue in Toronto.
“She told me there was a physical struggle. He was grasping her tightly,” Mira said.
Alicia went to stay with her sister Natalie and as part of Chang’s bail, he had to live with a cousin. But the couple continued to see one another despite a no contact order.
“As I was seeing the negative effects on my daughter, I was concerned for her future and her ability to continue on and do well in life and go into her second year of school,” Mira said.
Alicia was enrolled at Humber College in the esthetician and spa management course.
Mira testified that for the two months prior to her murder, she rarely saw her daughter despite texting her daily.
“I just grew more intensely worried,” she told the court, adding that she didn’t even know where the couple was living.
Just five days before she was murdered, Alicia came home, her mother told the court.
“What was going on with her recovery from substance abuse?” asked Crown attorney Tina Kim.
“She wasn’t doing well,” Mira said.
Two days later, Alicia told her mother she wanted to see Chang to give him a birthday gift, but she couldn’t get a hold of him.
Later that night, Mira texted her daughter who told her that she was going to his apartment because she had not heard from him and she was worried. Alicia texted and said there was no answer at his door.
She told her mother that she was not leaving until she saw Chang, at which point her mother texted back jokingly, she should call police.
“She did call the police. I was shocked,” Mira testified.
“I spoke to her on the phone. She’s crying her eyes out. She said he came to the door and said, ‘Get away or I’m going to put a bullet in your head.’”
Mira said she panicked and told her daughter to come home. About an hour later, Alicia arrived back in Mississauga, upset.
The following evening, Mira testified, Alicia spoke to police who asked her if she knew where Chang was. She told her mother police advised her Chang had damaged all the sprinklers in the unit of the condo where he was staying and it created a bunch of water damage.
Alicia also told her mother she called his cousin, his surety where he was supposed to be staying.
One night later, Alicia was gunned down in the visitor parking lot of the townhouse complex at 5 a.m.
Natalie Lewandowski told Global News via Zoom that the 911 call her sister made, after being shot, was played on day one of the trial.
“My sister was terrified. She knew she was dying. She was begging for help and asking him to stop. After some time, the phone went silent. You could hear her breathing. And the breaths became shallower and shorter,” she said choking back tears.
Chang, who has been in custody since his arrest more than three years ago, has pleaded not guilty. His lawyer Randall Barrs has begun his cross examination of Alicia’s mother.
Natalie Lewandowski says she plans to attend the entire four week trial.
“We want justice for Alicia. We want justice for all the women who are either stuck in violent situations or who have managed to get out and are survivors. It’s difficult, it’s so difficult to get out and Alicia was trying, this was her attempt to get out to her own demise. She couldn’t get out,” said Natalie, who wants to be a voice for others.
“I have decided to turn my pain into purpose and want to advocate for women in domestic violence and abusive relationships.”
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