Jurors hear closing arguments from defence in Oliver Kafara and Lucy Li murder trial

WARNING: This story contains distressing details.

Oliver Karafa either acted on impulse when he shot B.C. man Tyler Pratt to death and nearly killed Jordyn Romano in 2021 — or his plan to murder was so poorly orchestrated it was basically destined to fail, according to Karafa’s lawyer.

His wife, Lucy Li, was either helping Karafa carry out the killing or was unwittingly a pawn in Karafa’s plot — because Li is “perhaps the stupidest person in the room or the planet,” according to her lawyer.

That’s what the 13-member jury heard at Hamilton’s John Sopinka courthouse on Tuesday, during the seventh and final week of the trial of Toronto residents Karafa and Li. The couple were charged after Karafa shot Pratt, 39, and Romano, his 26-year-old pregnant girlfriend, in late February 2021.

Tuesday was the last time Karafa’s lawyer, Peter Zudak, had to try and sway the jury to find him guilty of second-degree murder instead of first-degree murder and not guilty of attempted murder.

It was also the final chance for Li’s lawyer, Liam O’Connor, to make his case to jurors that Li should be found not guilty of first-degree murder and attempted murder.

Karafa owed victims money before shooting

The shootings occurred that February evening in an industrial area in Stoney Creek.

Romano survived, but her unborn baby did not.

Karafa, 28 at the time, and Li, 25 at the time, boarded a flight from Canada to Eastern Europe soon after the shooting.

They were eventually arrested in Hungary a few months later, making international headlines at the time. 

A man smiling.
Tyler Pratt, of B.C., died after being shot on Feb. 28, 2021. (Submitted by Hamilton Police Services)

Crown prosecutors have said Karafa and Li both devised an intricate plan to kill Pratt and Romano.

Lawyers summarized parts of the trial on Tuesday. Romano was among those in the Hamilton courtroom Tuesday, sitting with family and friends. 

Karafa and Li sat with their respective lawyers and stared straight ahead. 

Throughout the trial, the jury has heard that Pratt was from British Columbia, made millions as an international drug dealer and lived lavishly with Romano.

The couple met Karafa and Li in 2020. The couples quickly become friends.

Pratt invested roughly half a million dollars into a personal protective equipment (PPE) venture run by Karafa and was waiting on his returns, said lawyers. 

Two people holding a man with his hands behind his back.
Karafa being arrested in Budapest by Hungarian National Police. (Submitted by Hungarian National Police)

But Karafa didn’t have the money and was trying to find ways to stall Pratt, including having Li pitch a bogus life-insurance policy investment worth millions.

The jury also heard Karafa had plans to sell two vehicles, including an Audi he bought from a friend’s mom hours before the shooting, and Romano’s Range Rover, which she ended up being shot in.

‘Obvious’ oversights show murder wasn’t planned: lawyer

Karafa didn’t testify in the trial unlike Li, who spent days under cross-examination.

Zudak said Karafa only planned to meet — not kill — Pratt and Romano in Stoney Creek, where he said there was a business opportunity to explore. 

“You may hear you don’t need a complicated plan and a simple plan is enough … even a bad plan,” Zudak told the jury.

“But consider this … if what seems, at first glance, to be a plan so bad, and so badly thought out, that it falls apart because so many obvious things were not considered … that indicates there is no plan to begin with,” Zudak said.

For example, he asked, why would Karafa kill them outside with drivers nearby, why did he spend 30 minutes with them instead of killing them right away and why wouldn’t he make sure Romano was dead?

A man and woman standing at a counter.
Karafa and Li pictured on March 1, 2021 at the Dorval Train Station in Quebec, days after the shooting. They were heading to the Montreal airport. (Court exhibit)

Zudak also noted after the shooting Karafa left the area only to come back to get Li, who wasn’t there when the shooting occurred but was nearby.

He says Karafa was in a “state of panic” which is evidence his actions weren’t planned.

Instead, Zudak suggested Pratt, who he described as a “volatile, big, muscular violent criminal” with connections to dangerous people, likely did something to set off Karafa.

Zudak also said Karafa didn’t intend to kill Romano. 

He said Romano’s testimony during earlier the trial was truthful, but unreliable because of the trauma she experienced.

Zudak noted Romano couldn’t describe how Karafa shot Pratt, for example, despite being there when it happened. Yet, she clearly remembered Karafa telling her to “get out of here.”

Li was Karafa’s ‘doormat’ for years, but not now: lawyer

Zudak also took a shot at Li and her lawyer, saying they spent the trial trying to “demonize” Karafa.

He pointed to how Li said Karafa initially said he pulled the trigger in self-defence but later said he planned the shooting out of fear of what would happen when Pratt and Romano didn’t get their money.

If he really did make that admission, Zudak said, why would Li stay with him in Hungary?

O’Connor, Li’s lawyer, said Li is naive, vacuous, “full of moral failings” and has terrible taste in men — but she has no appetite for murder.

Karafa manipulated Li and strung her along, just as he had many others in his life, O’Connor said.

He said Li didn’t need to kill for money, given she comes from a rich family.

“This is Oliver’s problem, not her issue,” O’Connor said.

A man and woman in an elevator.
Karafa and Li in an elevator on March 1, 2021 in Toronto, a day after the shooting. (Court exhibit)

O’Connor, like Zudak, also targeted Romano’s testimony. She previously testified she and Li spoke often in the months before the shooting.

O’Connor said Romano was certainly a victim in the shooting, but also has a moral compass so far off it should concern the jury.

He said Romano sees herself as a good person while also doing nothing to stop Pratt’s drug dealing and using that money to live in luxury.

He added phone records don’t support the notion she and Li spoke much.

O’Connor emphasized how Li opened herself up to cross-examination and was willing to speak to police. 

He said she “finally” developed “a bit of a backbone” after spending years being Karafa’s “doormat.”

“Karafa has had far too many victims in this life …included among the many victims is Lucy,” O’Connor said.

“I’d ask you to not let him take one more down.”

The Crown was expected to make its closing arguments Wednesday.


Posted in CBC