There don’t seem to be a lot of door-to-door salesman these days and that’s probably a good thing. It was always recommended to women home alone not to allow a salesman access to the home and thereby to themselves. In this sad account, a grandmother appears to have done just that and paid for it with her life.
Barrie, Ontario is a sleepy suburb in southern Ontario, a good 90-minute drive from Toronto, my current place of residence. Barrie, a place I often visit for various reasons, and Toronto couldn’t be more different. You’d expect this type of murder might take place in a city with 3 million people. Barrie has a population of about 130,000, not the ripest hunting ground for a killer, but Clare Spiers thought otherwise. Massumeh Mimi Khonsari, a relatively youthful grandmother at the age of 61, and wife of the late prominent Barrie surgeon Homa Khonsari, had the misfortune to be at home babysitting her precious 11-month-old granddaughter and opened the door after Spiers rang the doorbell. No one knows how it was that Spiers, peddling windows and home renovations, forced his way into her home then managed to force Khonsari into her own car with the baby in her arms. Other residents of the leafy Shanty Bay Rd. area had turned him away from their homes. They felt uncomfortable with the way Spiers tried to push his way into their homes. Police speculated Spiers threatened the baby’s life if Khonsari didn’t comply with his commands. Placing herself at great risk, Khonsari would rather die for the child than let Spiers hurt her. It all rather reminds me of a sadistic version of Little Red Riding Hood, except the odious character of the wolf is triumphant in the end.
Spiers was born and raised in Orillia a half hour drive north of Barrie. From an early age no one wanted Spiers: he was farmed out to foster homes and reform schools since the age of 8 or 9. Many children endure horrors in foster homes; sexual and physical abuse, seldom being fed or bathed. It is quite possible that Spiers survived a number of dreadful homes although there may have been a few good ones in his history. Either way, his unhappy childhood simply cannot excuse the atrocities he committed against Khonsari. Incredibly, Spiers had already acquired thirty-four convictions in Canada and the U.S. before the murder. Somehow he was hired as a door-to-door salesman by a Barrie company and unleashed on an unsuspecting public.
Some of Spiers’ charges included robberies, B&E, rape, aggravated assault, assault with a weapon, and a prison break. Yet time and again a parole board deemed Spiers fit to re-enter society as a free citizen. In 1985, he committed a carjacking in New York against an elderly woman. She saved her own life when she jumped out of the moving vehicle. What’s a few bruises and scrapes compared to a murder? In 1988, at JFK Airport, he forced a woman into a remote area of the airport terminal where he raped her. Spiers was arrested and sentenced to six to 12 years. Eleven years later in 1999, he forced a Toronto prostitute to go with him to a construction site where he struck her repeatedly about the head with a rock. Ouch. Her injuries required 40 stitches and staples to close. Spiers received only three years for aggravated assault. Seriously. Three years and he could have killed the woman. Spiers committed increasingly violent crimes mere months or weeks after he was released from prison. Somehow there was a lack of communication among police forces in Canada and the U.S. In both countries, Spiers’ sentences were an insult to his victims’ pain and suffering. Somehow he kept securing a release from prison even after an ongoing string of violent crimes committed against women.
Khonsari, Homa and their three sons immigrated to Canada from Iran. Her husband, was chief of surgery at Royal Victoria Hospital in Barrie. On that horrible May day, Dr. Khonsari had just left the house to play a round of golf after spending the morning at the hospital. Mrs. Khonsari was excited about having her granddaughter, Maya, for a sleepover that night. Mrs. Khonsari and Maya didn’t have very long to enjoy one another’s company. They were abducted from Garrett Cres. at 2:40 p.m. that afternoon. A contractor happened to call the house as Spiers entered and threatened Khonsari. Khonsari told him someone was trying to get into her car with her granddaughter. The contractor heard “a loud scuffling noise” before the line then went dead. Right away, he phoned both Dr. Khonsari and Barrie police. Alas, the well-intended call was in vain.
Mimi and Maya Khonsari were forced into a blue Audi to a wooded area in Oro-Medonte Township. A school bus driver noticed what appeared to be a “commotion” on the passenger side. Alas, the driver failed to intervene or to contact his home base. The Audi turned off on a concession road. In a quiet, wooded area, Mimi Khonsari was strangled with a piece of binder twine then, while still alive, she was stabbed repeatedly, her neck sliced open. “She was essentially murdered twice,” the coroner testified. Spiers then left Khonsari where she lay and drove away with Maya in the car. Spiers drove to the Bayfield Mall in Barrie. Two women saw him get out of the Audi, leaving a young child in the car. He headed to a coffee shop where he smoked and paced the sidewalk without entering the shop. When Spiers noticed the women staring at him and the infant he drove away.
Spiers parked behind an apartment building, placed Maya on the floor of the Audi and tossed away the keys. He left Maya unharmed, called a cab and went to the Rooster’s Bar. He paid the cab driver with money from Mimi Khonsari’s purse, A neighbour, Allison Miller, commented, “somewhere deep inside him he had enough decency not to harm that baby.” Khonsari’s body was found at 8:30 that night and Spiers was arrested on June 19, 2004, in Prince Edward Island on a Canada-wide warrant for breach of probation. It was not yet discovered that he had murdered Khonsari. He had flown to the east coast province to see his newborn twins. Sweet God. Twins. Hopefully the woman who was in an intimate relationship with Spiers will prove to be a considerably better role model, and won’t unleash two more Spiers’ in the world.
On Dec. 13 that year Spiers was charged with Mimi Khonsari’s murder. The murder weapon was never recovered. No motive was ever offered but then again no motive was needed. Spiers was a psychopath and a sadist who attacked lone women with no means of defense. He simply was and is a savage killer. What motive was needed? In 2007, three years after Khonsari’s murder, a jury found Spiers guilty of first degree murder. However, the Ontario Court of Appeal tossed out the verdict after learning the prosecution had improperly”vetted” the jury. In this case, the Crown checked into the personal backgrounds of jurors before they were selected for trial. The intention was to weed out jurors with alcohol or mental health problems, or those who were considered “disreputable.” The higher court said the Crown had no bad intentions in the process but the Crown’s actions “tainted” justice. Most definitely I am inclined to agree. Weed out people with mental illness or alcohol addiction? Sounds like a slippery slope into George Orwell’s 1984 to me. As a result of the Crown’s carelessness, it would take another 7 years before Spiers would go on trial for Khonsari’s murder,
Ten years after Khonsari’s murder, Spiers was finally convicted to life in prison for the second degree murder of Mimi Khonsari. Rather than bear the expense of another trial, the Crown agreed to allow Spiers to plead guilty to the lesser charge. Justice Ian Nordheimer offered Spiers the chance of parole after serving only 7 years in 2021. Seriously. Has Ontario learned nothing from the ongoing release of this prisoner? Nordheimer defended his decision by stating that offering parole as early as 2021 didn’t guarantee Spiers would actually be granted parole. Well, isn’t that a huge relief (roll eyes in head).That means in 7 more years, the Khonsari family will once again re-open deep wounds as they attend Spiers’ parole hearing. Should there be more than one parole hearing (one hopes), the family will have to continue their ongoing fight to maintain justice and keep Spiers behind bars where he belongs, for the murder of Mimi Khonsari.