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Arrest made in stabbing death of volunteer caretaker outside Rexdale mosque

Last Updated Sep 18, 2020 at 11:23 pm EDT

Police have made an arrest in the stabbing death of a volunteer caretaker outside a Rexdale mosque last weekend.

Mohamed-Aslim Zafis, 58, was sitting in a chair outside the IMO Mosque last Saturday night, controlling access to comply with health regulations, when he was approached by a suspect and stabbed to death.

Guilherme “William” Von Neutegem, 34, of Toronto has been charged with first-degree murder.

Police say at this time there is no motive and no known relationship between the accused and victim.

“We are actively working with our partners in the justice system to secure search warrants and other judicial authorizations that will further our investigation,” said Insp. Hank Idsinga, who would not reveal if the suspect is known to police or has a previous criminal history.

He would also not rule out the possibility that this incident may be the result of a hate crime.

Police had previously indicated that Zafis’ death may be linked to another homicide after Rampreet “Peter” Singh, a homeless man who lived under a bridge several kilometres away, was stabbed to death five days earlier. However, Idsinga said there is no update on that case at this time.

“We continue to explore every possibility and will go wherever the evidence takes us,” said Idsinga.

During a funeral on Wednesday, Zafis was remembered by friends and family as a “kind, gentle soul” who, even on the day he was killed, handed out food to the hungry and worked to keep his fellow worshippers safe.

“He was an incredible man,” Zafis’s nephew, Zahir Zafis, said through tears.

“He never had any negative thoughts or words.”

A vigil is planned for Zafis on Saturday afternoon, where the International Muslim Organization said it will thank police for their work on the case, and ask that the possibility of a hate crime be explored.

“The IMO will be calling on the Toronto Police Service to investigate the murder as a potentially hate-motivated homicide,” the organization said in a statement Friday.