Killer of Winnipeg cab driver could be eligible for parole after serving 12 years of life sentence

A 23-year-old man previously found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of a Winnipeg cab driver more than three years ago will have to serve at least 12 years of his life sentence before becoming eligible for parole, a Court of King’s Bench justice ruled on Friday.

Okoth Obeing, who lives with bipolar disorder and an intellectual disability, fatally stabbed Balvir Toor 17 times with an 8½-inch knife. It happened in Toor’s taxi on Burrows Avenue in the early morning hours of March 19, 2020, after Toor requested upfront payment from Obeing.

“Obeing fled the scene, disposed of the murder weapon, lied to police with respect to his involvement and mocked Toor while demonstrating complete callousness for undertaking the killing,” Justice Joan McKelvey told the court Friday. “He expressed the motives that fuelled his rage-induced, racist actions. Impaired mental health and an intellectual disability played a role in Obeing’s conduct but not a principal role.”

During his trial, court heard Obeing expressed a dislike of taxi drivers, experienced difficulties with people of South Asian descent and felt disrespected when asked for cab fare in advance.

Court heard Obeing began swearing and talking quickly when he got into Toor’s cab. Toor then asked Obeing for payment and got it. Obeing continued swearing before striking the cab’s plexiglass shield while in the backseat. He then got quiet and told Toor, “It’s OK, bro, just drive.”

As Toor started the trip, Obeing moved to the middle of the backseat, reached around and repeatedly stabbed Toor while yelling at him.

The killing was captured on camera inside the taxi and Obeing was observed through video surveillance leaving the area on foot. 

Police cars are pictured at a crime scene.
Balvir Toor’s taxi on Burrows Avenue in a file photo from March 2020. (John Einarson/CBC)

Second-degree murder comes with a mandatory life sentence and no chance of parole for between 10 and 25 years.

The Crown argued Obeing shouldn’t be eligible for parole for at least 15 years, while the defence lawyers pushed for the 10-year minimum, arguing Obeing’s mental health was at the forefront of his actions at the time of Toor’s death.

‘Future dangerousness’ must be considered: justice

McKelvey told court she considered the character of the offender, the nature of the offence and the circumstances surrounding the killing in coming to a decision on 12 years.

“The circumstances of this case which include Obeing’s actions while under a court order, continuing anger management issues, possible dangerousness in the future, viciousness of the attack on a vulnerable victim, racism, animus and a lack of remorse serve to enhance the period of parole ineligibility from the 10-year minimum,” McKelvey told the court.

“Clearly, Obeing will not be released from custody if he continues to present in a dangerous fashion. Obeing’s bipolar disorder and intellectual disability have impacted his moral blameworthiness and lessened his moral culpability.”

While in custody, McKelvey told the court every effort should be made by Obeing to access psychiatric and psychological treatment.

Treatment stands as the best option towards enabling parole in the future,” McKelvey told the court.

In her decision, she said denunciation, deterrence and the public’s protection must observed in this case and “the future dangerousness of Obeing” must also be considered.

“I am satisfied that determination is best left to be evaluated by the parole board at the time of parole eligibility,” McKelvey told the court. “Any assessment at this point would be speculative.”