Salim Touaibi is charged with the first-degree murder of Meriem Boundaoui as well as three counts of attempted murder.

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A 26-year-old man who was already behind bars when he was arrested Monday has been charged with the murder of Meriem Boundaoui, a 15-year-old girl shot in St-Léonard in February last year.

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Salim Touaibi, 26, made a brief appearance before Quebec Court Judge Geneviève Graton at the Montreal courthouse Monday afternoon where he was charged with first-degree murder in the teenager’s death.

Prosecutor Anne-Andrée Charette informed the judge that members of the victim’s family were in the courtroom to watch as Touaibi was formally charged through a videoconference connecting the Montreal courthouse to the Rivière-des-Prairies Detention Center.

On Feb. 7, 2021, Meriem was seated in a gray Volkswagen outside Boulangerie Castel at the corner of Valdombre and Jean-Talon Sts. when she was shot. The Montreal police later said they believed she was in the wrong place at the wrong time when she was killed and was not the intended target of the shooting.

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Touaibi was not required to enter a plea to the charges he faces. Defense lawyer Xavier Desrosiers simply asked that the case be carried over to July 22 while Touaibi remains detained in another case.

Besides being charged with murder, Touaibi also faces four counts of attempted murder related to the same shooting. He is alleged to have tried to kill four other people while using a firearm. The four people do not have criminal records in Quebec.

In a news conference held only minutes before Touaibi appeared in court, Montreal police Commander Salvatore Serrao said the girl was killed as the result of a conflict between two groups.

“What I can confirm is that young Meriem had nothing to do with the conflict between the two groups,” Serrao said, while adding investigators believe at least one other person was involved in the shooting but that he would not comment any further because the investigation is ongoing.

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“What I can confirm is that a suspect was arrested and he (did not act) alone and he participated directly. It is for that reason that he is charged with first-degree murder,” Serrao said. “The strength of a police investigation is in its rigour. It can’t be done quickly. You have to take time. Our investigators are determined (and) they are devoted.

“There are elements of evidence to gather, there are witnesses to meet, there is evidence to be analyzed. It is complex and it takes time. We don’t want to lose a suspect so we can deliver justice to the family.”

Meriem Boundaoui, 15, killed Feb. 7, 2021 in St-Léonard.
Meriem Boundaoui, 15, killed Feb. 7, 2021 in St-Léonard. Photo courtesy Safia Boundaoui

On the night of the shooting, Meriem was inside the Volkswagen with a 21-year-old man she had met online. He escaped the shooting unscathed and she was shot in the head at least once.

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The teenager came to Canada from Algeria in 2014 to study here while she lived with a sister and her family in La Prairie on the South Shore.

“She always said she wasn’t going back to Algeria, but that she would bring our parents here,” the girl’s other sister Safia, who lives in Pointe-aux-Trembles, told the Montreal Gazette recently. “She was so happy, but (her killers of her) did n’t let her continue her life of her here.”

Touaibi’s current address is listed on the charge sheet as being the Rivière-des-Prairies Detention Centre.

He was arrested there Monday morning while already detained in another case, where on June 10, Touaibi was found guilty of possessing a prohibited or restricted firearm. He was also found guilty of having violated a court order, imposed on him in 2020, that he did not possess a firearm for 10 years. The sentencing stages of those two cases are scheduled to begin in September.

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The court order was issued on Aug. 11, 2020, when Touaibi was sentenced to a 24-month prison term in a different case that involved a firearm. When the time he had already served was factored into the sentence, he was left to serve five months in prison.

He was also convicted, in 2019, of possessing cannabis with the intent to traffic. In 2017, he and another man were arrested in the parking lot of a residential building in Anjou. An anonymous caller reported seeing a vehicle idling in the parking lot after midnight on Feb. 25, 2017. Two officers who were assigned to check out the vehicle asked Touaibi and the other man to lower their windows, and when they did, the distinct odor of cannabis came wafting out. The police officers found nearly 20 grams of pot, as well as two scales and several cellphones inside the vehicle.

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