‘Ottawa’ Homicide Victim Was in Witness Protection After Firebombing Trial
A man killed in an Ottawa crack den last month was once in witness protection after testifying against a drug dealer accused of aiding in the firebombing of a Calgary house that killed two children.
Two moments of Jeremy Spafford’s life were defined by crack dens: the night he watched as two men schemed to get the necessary ingredients to make the Molotov cocktail and then later smoked the crack they bought with the money they were paid for the deadly attack, and the July encounter in Ottawa where — as Jeremy Mack — he lay dead after what homicide detectives believe was an attack he instigated.
Jeremy Lex Mack, 36, stabbed to death on July 23, was born Jeremy Spafford in British Columbia. He was just 16 when he moved to Alberta in the mid-1990s to live with a brother to escape what was already shaping up to be a troubled life. He would later make his way across the country, dealing and doing drugs, committing crimes, routinely surviving nearly unwinnable situations.
Mack’s death, the 10th homicide of a year already on pace to be the deadliest in Ottawa since the turn of the millennium, made headlines. But his killing, which police are probing as justified, albeit fuelled by drug use, is not believed to have any connection to his former life.
His testimony recounting the callous underbelly of the crack trade in Calgary, what addicts would do for a score, what human emotions disappear when heat comes through a crack den, first put his former name in the headlines in 2005.
On Nov. 18, 2004, around 1:35 a.m., two crack addicts looking for money to get a hit, tossed a flaming sock in a bottle of gasoline through the living room window of a townhouse at 59 Applewood Ln. in southeast Calgary.
Flames engulfed the home and five-year-old Ali Al-Mayahi and his four-year-old sister Saja were killed.
The police investigation in Calgary that followed included wiretaps and a sorting through of the twisted relationships among a cast of characters — including Mack:
There was Tahsin Al-Mayahi, the father of the dead children and intended recipient of what ought to have been a mere punch in the face;
Salima Barih, his wife and the children’s mother who was also injured in the attack;
Spouses Abdulazziz Ellahib and Manar Hussein accused of hiring the townhouse attackers after an affair between two Iraqi-Canadians — the then-married Tahsin Al-Mayahi and the separated Hussein that blossomed, then soured, after she responded to his ad to sell a car — leaving Al-Mayahi to trash Hussein in the Iraqi community;
Fernum Stewart Kezar and Michael Sheets, the drug-addled men who lit and tossed the firebomb for enough money to get high, and;
Tony Dewitt, Mack’s drug-dealer boss who gave the townhouse attackers $5 to buy gasoline.
Mack, then 24, was living with the firebombers at the crack house, which was used not only to sell the drug but also to run prostitutes.
When Mack testified a year later as Spafford, he was already in witness protection. He changed his name after the trial ended.
He told the court he was outraged that the two crack addicts might bring police attention to the house.
“They had just finished doing their job and I was pissed off. With all the activity going on — drug dealing, stolen property, prostitution — I yelled and screamed at them for coming back and putting heat on (the crack house).”
The men left to collect their six $20 bills, “talking, smiling and grinning,” Mack said. They gave the cash to Mack’s boss in exchange for about two grams of crack cocaine. They smoked it right away.
Mack testified he opened a newspaper in the days after the fire and saw a story about it, with photos of the dead children. He woke one of the bombers up.
“His eyes teared up right away and he said, ‘Yeah,’” Mack said.
Mack testified that in the days before the fire, at the same crack house, he tied up a 16-year-old prostitute and watched as his boss cut off one of her fingers for stealing a lighter case and that the firebombers slashed a man in the neck with a hatchet and watched him try to crawl away.
The judge found Mack, the self-professed muscle that collected drug debts, to be honest when it came to how much money was paid. A man of the business knew to pay attention to the count.
But the judge also found that as a man who didn’t particularly care for one of the two men who actually lit the firebomb that he couldn’t be trusted to be accurate about much else.
Ellahabib, the jealous husband who paid for the attack, was found guilty of arson and two counts of manslaughter. Both Dewitt, Mack’s former boss, and Hussein were acquitted.
Kezar and Sheets — the firebombers — pleaded guilty to arson causing bodily harm and manslaughter and were sentenced to 15 and 16 years respectively for their crimes. Kezar was released in 2015; Sheets is due for mandatory release in 2017.
Despite the change in name and address, Mack’s criminal life continued in Ottawa, as did his drug use. In 2012, theft charges were withdrawn, as were five counts of unlawful entry. He was convicted in 2014 of theft. In 2015, he forged a document, and he was due back in the court last week for three counts of fraud.
He didn’t make it. Mack was stabbed multiple times in his upper torso in a crack house on Winthrop Private on July 23. Police arrested the sole suspect in the killing, then released him without charges, believing he acted in self-defence, stabbing Mack only after the now-dead man with two identities pulled out a fake gun.
The investigation remains open, but charges are unlikely.
With files from Aedan Helmer and the Calgary Herald