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Witness at first-degree murder trial recalls hearing loud bangs, followed by a woman screaming

·4 min read

The neighbour of a woman whose daughter was shot and killed at her Mississauga townhouse complex three years ago recalls hearing four loud bangs followed by a woman screaming out and a dark vehicle leaving the scene, a Brampton court heard Thursday.

John Neralich’s testimony about what he recalled from the small hours of March 5, 2018, came during day four of the first-degree murder trial of Joseph Chang, who’s accused of the shooting death of his then girlfriend, Alicia Lewandowski.

Neralich, who was in bed at the time, said he was awakened by the first loud bang, which was followed by a second loud bang less than a minute later, which he remembered thinking was a gunshot.

“I recalled hearing what I took to be a woman screaming at the top of her voice,” Neralich said. “Then I heard two more very loud bangs and then everything went silent.”

The court also heard evidence from two other residents of the Rathburn Road and Dixie Road housing complex, who said they also heard several loud bangs followed by what sounded like someone in distress minutes before police swarmed the scene.

Neralich said he went to see what had caused the noise, but his view was impeded by a detached garage leading to the visitors’ parking lot where Lewandowski was shot and killed that morning.

“I heard a car start up and almost immediately take off,” said Neralich, who added that he glimpsed a black car leaving the parking lot. By the time he could call 9-1-1, police were already swarming the scene.

Neralich spotted his neighbour, Mira Lewandowski, frantically asking police “whether her daughter had been shot.” He was told by police to stay inside.

The trial, conducted via Zoom video conference before Ontario Superior Court Justice Jennifer Woollcombe, already heard how the 25-year-old victim, who was left for dead in the parking lot outside the house where she lived with her mother ,had called 9-1-1 to report she had been shot in the head and gave the dispatcher her boyfriend’s name.

Alicia Lewandowski, a Humber College student, who was studying esthetics and spa management was shot at least three times, including once to the chest and once to the head, when she called police.

A Peel police officer has testified that witnesses had heard four shots and video captured a dark-coloured vehicle entering the complex at 4:58 a.m., before exiting four minutes later.

Evelyn MacNeil, who lives in a highrise building in the complex said she was woken up by a male and female voices arguing, punctuated by at least three loud bangs and a car driving away from the complex.

“The female was crying,” said MacNeil, who recalled thinking one of the neighbours was having a domestic fight. “She seemed to be in distress.

“When I heard the second gunshot I was afraid,” MacNeil responded in response to question from co-prosecutor on the case, Tina Kim.

Chang’s defence lawyer Randall Barrs challenged the accuracy of MacNeil’s memory of the events along with her depiction of the male and female voices, saying “you can’t remember any words, so you’re really only guessing if whether it was truly a domestic or they could’ve been talking about something else.”

MacNeil admitted she couldn’t make out the exact words from her upper-floor unit but maintained it sounded like arguing.

Elizabeth Delarosa, a resident of the same highrise, said she, too, heard at least two loud pops.

“I also heard a cry out and a grunt,” said Delarosa, who captured cellphone footage of the police and ambulance at the scene. “I did see a car speed out.”

She observed emergency responders providing CPR to someone lying on the ground.

Lewandowski was pronounced dead at the scene. Police found three live rounds on the pavement of the parking lot, along with a cellphone and evidence of broken glass.

Her boyfriend, Chang, then 39, was arrested in Toronto about 14 hours later and charged with first-degree murder.

He has pleaded not guilty.

Mira Lewandowski has told the court that Chang and her daughter had a “volatile” relationship and she tried unsuccessfully to keep her daughter away from the accused, and that, by 2017, she had become increasingly concerned after it became clear that the couple were drug addicts.

Court has seen photographs of a black 2010 Infiniti G37S car, a handgun and two magazines seized by police.

Investigators found several items in the car, including a purse and a wallet containing several items, including a health card belonging to the victim, and bail documents belonging to the accused.

Evidence was also presented of what appeared to be bullet holes in the driver-side armrest and seat, also several live rounds inside the vehicle and three spent rounds, two of which were on the passenger seat. The remains of two fired bullets, one of which was lodged inside the driver-side door, had Alicia’s DNA on them.

Jason Miller is a Toronto-based reporter for the Star covering crime and justice in the Peel Region. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him on email: jasonmiller@thestar.ca or follow him on Twitter: @millermotionpic

Jason Miller, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star