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Life sentence for Toronto drug dealer who killed man near Wawa

Appearing in a Sault Ste. Marie courtroom, Houssein Hassan gave a tearful apology to victim's family; 'I'm sorry for everything I've done. I'm trying to change myself'

A southern Ontario drug dealer was sentenced to life in prison Monday for killing a Sudbury man, whose remains were located in the bush south of Wawa four years ago.

Appearing in a Sault Ste. Marie courtroom, Houssein Hassan pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in connection with the 32-year-old victim's death on May 29, 2019.

The Toronto man admitted he shot Devin Collin with a handgun and left him to die in the bush near the Trans Canada Highway. Hassan, 28, was charged with first-degree murder, but the Crown accepted a guilty plea to the lesser, included offence of second-degree murder.

The prosecutors and defence jointly recommended that his parole eligibility be set at 10 years. Superior Court Justice Michael Varpio accepted their recommendation.

In a victim impact statement she read to the court, Collin's sister Trista Collin-Anderson, called his death a cold-blooded murder that "left him to rot" in the woods.

"He was executed for not selling enough drugs" and because he annoyed Hassan, she said.

Collin-Anderson outlined the emotional toll her brother's death has had on his entire family. 

"I hate you with every fibre of my being" for taking away a brother, a father and a son, she told Hassan.

A second Toronto-area man pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact to murder on Oct. 27, 2021. Demitri Fortomaris, then 24, received a conditional sentence of two years less a day, which was to be served in the community.

Varpio heard the Greater Sudbury Police Service began an investigation on June 17, 2019 after Collin's sister reported he was missing, and there "were rumours that he had been shot by drug dealers from Toronto." 

Police learned the accused had travelled from Sudbury to Timmins, and then Wawa with three other people, including Collin and Fortomaris.

A woman who was with them indicated she was afraid for her safety, Crown attorney Lindsay Santerre told the court in an agreed statement of facts. She wouldn't identify the other individuals, but admitted she was high and heavily dosed at the time.

During their stop in Wawa, the woman and Collin had gone into a store, where she said he told her he feared for his life.

The 2019 black Infinity SUV and its four occupants left the town shortly before 7 p.m., heading towards Sault Ste. Marie. It stopped on the shoulder of Highway 17, in a secluded bush area six kilometres south of Wawa.

Hassan ordered Collin to get out of the vehicle, which Fortomaris was driving. He had a silver handgun, was yelling and ordered the victim to go into the bush.

The accused started to walk away, then turned around and shot Collin several times. When police discovered the man's remains, officers also located eight spent casings, or shells.

A gunshot wound to the thorax caused Collin's death, Santerre said.

Hassan was arrested in October 2019.

Varpio heard Fortomaris testify at a preliminary hearing that they had gone to Timmins with the victim to sell drugs, and Hassan was unhappy about the results.

Hassan was consuming liquor and when they left Wawa, he "was out of his mind drunk."  He was "becoming hostile, angry and agitated" and "transferred into a different person."

Fortomaris said after they stopped on the side of the highway he could hear the two men arguing, and Collin begging for his life. Hassan fired a number of shots and Collin screamed. The accused returned to the vehicle and they left.

As they headed to the Sault, Hassan spoke to a woman he was considering selling drugs to, Varpio heard.

"He indicated he wasn't someone to mess with because he had shot someone." 

Defence lawyer Hussein Aly told the judge there were triable issues "in terms of the facts" and "considerable credibility issues" with the witnesses.

But his client, who is "deeply sorry and "feels terrible about what occurred," has "stepped up and pleaded guilty with an eye to improving himself going forward." Hassan had no criminal record prior to this and was young at the time, Aly said.

He grew up in Toronto's Regent Park neighbourhood, stayed away from gangs and was never involved in crime. Hassan had been enrolled in college, but after he dropped out he noticed an individual being successful selling drugs.

"Up until then he made the right choices," the defence told Varpio.

Assistant Crown attorney Karen Pritchard cited the need to deter Hassan and others.

He committed "a violent and terrible act" — a senseless murder — and his actions have to be supervised for the rest of his life, she said.

A message needs to be sent to people in this lifestyle or those who believe they are powerful because they have a gun that they can act without consequences and impunity, the prosecutor said.

The message must be sent that "these actions are not tolerated."

Before sentence was imposed, Hassan stood in the prisoner's box and turned to face Collin's family, who were seated in the front row of the courtroom, directly behind him. 

"I'm sorry for everything I've done," he told them, wiping tears from his eyes. "I wished it wouldn't have happened. I'm trying to change myself."

When he imposed the life sentence, Varpio called the "nature of the murder" a serious aggravating factor. Collin was terrified before he was shot on the side of the road and left to die. A firearm was used, and his death was connected to the drug trade.

The judge cited Hassan's plea of guilt to second-degree murder as a "powerful show of remorse," given the serious triable issues. He is a young man, and it's possible he will turn his life around, but Collin will never have the same opportunity, Varpio said.

Collin's sister spoke passionately about the family's loss — an expression of anger, grief and pain caused by Hassan — and the impact on their lives, he said.

He called the plea agreement within the acceptable range and appropriate.

Varpio also imposed a life-time weapons prohibition.

About the Author: Linda Richardson

Linda Richardson is a freelance journalist who has been covering Sault Ste. Marie's courts and other local news for more than 45 years.
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