Rohinie Bisesar is not an imposing woman. Standing at only 4’11” at 85 lbs, she appears utterly harmless and shy in her behavior and etiquette. She is pretty, and looks younger than the 40 years of age she was in the mugshot above. She is intelligent and highly educated, with an MBA and a Bachelor’s in Molecular Biology.
And yet; she stabbed a woman to death 2 weeks before Christmas in 2015, at a Toronto pharmacy while in the grip of a schizophrenic episode.
How did this attractive and well-schooled woman decompose psychologically? It is a complex tale of mental illness, child abuse, a strict Asian family, capitalism, careerism, delusion, abandonment, personal failure, and pure madness. This is the story of Rohinie Bisesar.
A Strict Childhood
She was born in 1975 in Guyana, to Hindu Indian parents. Guyana is a beautiful South American tropical nation, but it suffers from extreme poverty and a culture of domestic violence and misogyny. It has the highest suicide rate in the world, and was home to the 1978 Jonestown Massacre; when crazed cult leader Jim Jones induced over 900 of his followers into “revolutionary suicide” via cyanide-laced Kool Aid.
Her parents moved to Canada in 1980, with their two oldest children. They left behind their youngest daughter, five-year old Rohinie, in the care of relatives. By all accounts, she was not their favorite child. After earning enough money to buy a house, her parents finally brought her to Toronto to live with them. They had another son shortly.
Rohinie occupied the lowest hierarchical position in the family: she was the second daughter. Her parents were more proud of their two boys, and they viewed her as the extra daughter they didn’t need.
She was compared to her successful older sister Chandra; an ambitious investment banker and chartered accountant living in New York City.
Her parents ran a small clothing store called Sandra’s and Chico’s, and worked part time gigs as well. They were serial workaholics who expected Rohinie to have the same drive for labour that they did. Any time she was not at school, she was made to work at the family store.
She had no time for a social life or dating. Rohinie’s father was a super strict traditional Hindu, and she grew resentful at how her parents controlled every aspect of her life. Her father forbade her to wear makeup, well into her 20s.
Finally, she rebelled: Rohinie ran away from home as a teenager, but was discovered by a truck driver who took her to a police station.
This was the last straw for her religious nut father. He took her to a Hindu faith healer, and they performed a bizarre and disturbing cleansing ceremony. They forced Rohinie to strip naked, and poured chicken blood onto her. With a father like that, who needs an enemy?
After this, Rohinie became skeptical of her religion; often ridiculing superstitious aspects of Hinduism. Her antipathy towards her abusive father may have driven her off dating Indian men. Later on, when asked out by men of her race, Rohinie would politely inform them that she only dated tall white men.
After graduating high school in 1993, Rohinie attained a Bachelor’s degree in Molecular Biology at the University of T Scarborough, and an Administrative Studies degree in General Management from York. She also had a certification from the Canadian Securities Institute, and a certificate in mining as well. She worked as a technical writer and computer technician at York’s math department, and attained her MBA in 2007. Her future looked promising.
Leaving the Nest
2003 was the year that Rohinie could not stand living with her parents any longer. She was 28 years old, yet still bound by a curfew and her parents had access to her bank account. Her life was one of mere work and study. It was no life at all.
Her traditional religious parents thought it was blasphemy for a woman to leave the home before marriage. But Rohinie defied them by moving out to live with a female roommate, prompting her parents to accuse her of being a lesbian.
She acquired a deadbeat boyfriend five years her junior. When interviewed later on about the murder by Toronto Life, he hides under an alias and basically just throws Rohinie under the bus and covers his own ass throughout the interview.
People who claimed to know Rohinie described the boyfriend as “a sloppy, ripped jeans and stained t-shirt type of guy who did not take care of himself.” This may just be slander, but the story gets even more eyebrow-raising.
They met when he and his male friend were driving down the street and whistling at Rohinie. She was initially annoyed, but Rohinie gave him her MSN messenger ID.
Their first date consisted of going to a restaurant for Thai food, then a dance club. Rohinie did not have many friends and was sheltered, so this must have been exciting for her. She appeared to be naïve about him as well: he was unemployed, living with his mother, and trying to launch a music career. Not exactly a prize catch.
At this point, Rohinie was in her 30s and wanted to make up for the years she lost living at her parents’ house. The boyfriend described her as “this outgoing, strong, assertive woman. She was a Type A personality. She helped to put me on a new path that benefitted me.”
Indeed she did. She became his mommy gf.
Dreaming of Success
Rohinie financially supported the boyfriend while he attended York University to attain a degree in commerce. She rented them an upscale apartment in heart of the city. This was a far shot from living with his mama and making mixtapes in the basement.
She struggled to stay afloat at harsh investment firms where 12 hour work days were the norm. She was overwhelmed and stopped showing up for weeks at a time. She was fired by her firm after 4 months.
For two years, Rohinie was unable to find a new job. She began taking out loans and huge lines of credit to support herself and her boyfriend, and amassed a crushing amount of financial debt.
In 2010, Rohinie finally managed to get a new job as a mining analyst associate. The couple moved into a better and more expensive apartment. The entirety of the couple’s financial responsibilities fell on her, and she tried her best.
Rohinie’s days were long and often lasted from 5 AM to 10 PM. Her work consumed her life, and she did not have money to indulge in luxuries. She had only a few outfits, and took her boyfriend out for dinner at swank restaurants whenever she could afford it.
And yet, she could not conform to the toxic codes of corporate culture. She was a small ethnic woman at a mostly male finance firm, but she still had the nerve to criticize her superiors in front of other people.
Rohinie grew extremely paranoid that her co-workers were going through her computer. She wanted to place a spy camera on her desk to prove this. These appear to be the first exterior indications of her schizophrenia. She was fired 7 months into the job.
Rohinie retook exams to become a chartered analyst despite failing six times, and applied to dozens of jobs to no avail. Nobody would hire her.
She now felt that someone, or something, was conspiring against her through nanotechnological mind control; that her ex-employers were somehow preventing her from getting hired somewhere else.
The stress she felt about being in debt probably contributed to her decline. Why didn’t her boyfriend chip in at this point and help take the pressure off of her shoulders? Why didn’t her parents provide assistance to their struggling daughter?
The boyfriend criticized Rohinie for not applying to lower-status jobs, yet did not help out himself. Despite the fact that she was over $60k in debt, she kept using credit to pay monthly rent. The boyfriend’s six year-long gravy train had come to a halt, and he wanted out.
He began to avoid interactions with her, admitting he “would wake up, shower and leave for work as soon as I could. I just wanted to leave and let Rohinie do her thing.” This was the time in which she needed help the most, but he abandoned her.
He dumped Rohinie, and said that she “became hysterical” and screamed at him. He left the apartment, and told her to move back in with her parents as well. This was her worst nightmare.
Rohinie dreaded going back, and stayed alone in the apartment for 6 months. Later that autumn, the boyfriend gave her the measly sum of $2,500 and helped her move back in with her parents. She was doomed; sent back to the very same horrible environment she feared and resented.
She and her parents butted heads immediately. Ever the strict Hindus, her parents placed a curfew on their daughter even though she was nearly 40 years old. She didn’t even have her own house keys, and if she returned home after 10 PM, she was effectively homeless for the night.
Even when she attended networking events to gain employment, her parents still refused to allow her inside after curfew. Rohinie would sleep at Tim Hortons for the night. Her life was a walking nightmare.
Her parents, on the other hand, claimed that they were afraid of her, begged her ex-boyfriend to help her get therapy, and locked their doors at night out of fear of their daughter.
The ex-boyfriend sometimes saw Rohinie walking down city streets, and said she looked like a bag lady and reminded him of the Russell Crowe character in A Beautiful Mind.
Things all came to a head in March of 2014.
For whatever reason, Rohinie threatened to burn her parents’ house down and pushed her mother so hard that it damaged a door. Her parents called the police, and she was taken away to a mental ward and diagnosed with schizophrenia.
The ex-boyfriend came to visit her, and found that she had been administered a strong dose of antipsychotics. With the medicine in her system, she was able to talk to him like a rational human being and finally admitted to hearing voices in her head for several years. One of the voices was an old white male business executive.
They had a touching moment where they cuddled in the bed of the mental ward. However, Rohinie would not recover because she refused to take her meds.
Not many people realize how strong antipsychotic drugs truly are. Countless schizophrenics struggle to stay on medication that keeps them assimilated into society, yet destroys their mind and body in other ways.
One of the drugs Rohinie was prescribed was Olanzapine. Common side effects are weight gain, sleepiness, a rise in prolactin which weakens the bones, dizziness, high cholesterol, pancreas issues, erectile dysfunction, OCD, suicidal thoughts and hyperglycemia/diabetes. And these are a few of the side effects.
Following her release, Rohinie moved in with her aunt and landed a contract job at a business firm. She tried to go straight, but once she was off the meds it was over.
Her parents attempted to get her institutionalized, but they had no legal precedent to do so. The stage was set for a disaster. Rohinie left her aunt’s house in the autumn of 2015, resigning herself to a life of homelessness and drifting.
Lost on the Streets of Toronto
She was known to wander around the city all day, most often on Bay Street; which is the main part of Toronto’s Financial District and like a shitty Wall Street, and in the PATH System; a rat-like maze of underground tunnels which contains thousands of shops and offices.
An eyewitness who worked at Goodlife Fitness gym described Rohinie as polite, yet disturbed. She spent 5-8 hours a day in the gym bathrooms, showered and groomed there, and even washed her underwear in the sinks. She stared at her reflection in the mirror for hours, sometimes screaming at it. One day, she had a psychotic episode and destroyed a blow dryer.
While being thrown out by security, she apologized profusely and claimed that “it was all because of these voices in her head who ruin everything, they’ve deprived her of her house, fiancé, and a career.”
Toronto is a city with a New York, Paris, and London tier price tag; but it is bleak and frozen and without style or uplifting scenery. It is a depressing, cold, lonely city; where the weak and impoverished often get crushed within the walls of the harsh and unforgiving concrete jungle.
She visited the same Starbucks on Yonge and King each day, and would “come in and always get an ice water or a tall pike coffee and would sit at a laptop turned away from the wall.” When she had no money, she just ordered hot water with cinnamon in it.
Rohinie stayed there from morning until closing time, and had only a few outfits which she wore over and over: a smart black pantsuit and a lavender or white shirt. When Starbucks employees tried to converse with her, Rohinie appeared awkward and was slow to answer.
They described her as “very antisocial. We knew something was off because she would stand at the cash and give us a blank stare.”
She put up small signs at her table offering financial services, walked around trying to give people her business card, and dropped off her resume at offices and firms.
At this point, Rohinie was functionally homeless. She emailed people and begged them for money: “I am asking all my friends to contribute, if they can and wish to, denominations of $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50 or $100. My goal is simply to ensure I have basic necessities (food, water, shelter, clothing, and products for hygiene and beauty).”
The only people who helped were men who had a crush on her, or those who pitied her. Rohinie still had her looks, and she was a pretty and petite size 00 who attracted many admirers. A broker who hit on her in public said she rejected him, but he allowed her to crash on his couch regardless. This man claimed that she was $200k in debt.
80-year old Trueman MacHenry, Rohinie’s former mathematics professor from York University, tried to help her out as well and took her out for meals. He said of her:
“She was very friendly, she was very good with people, she was bright. Everybody who knows about [the stabbing] at work feels very badly, and I almost had a nervous breakdown over it. I tried to keep her from starving to death…
Rohinie bought a gym membership downtown, using it as a place to bathe and sleep until staff asked her to stop. Then she tried sleeping on the subway, a dangerous situation that she disliked very much. She slept in corners of the underground city and couch-surfed. The idea of staying in a shelter never came up: She was kind of a patrician.”
Rohinie would also go to classy hotels and restaurants with her makeup and hair done, and sit there for hours not ordering anything. When asked to; she would tell the servers to first create a better menu, and instead ate sliced apples from a little container and a granola bar.
A server on Wellington Street saw her with a succession of different men each time, noting that “they looked like lonely guys probably trying to pick her up. They were older men who obviously didn’t know her.”
Professor MacHenry said that Rohinie once did obtain a place to live through social assistance money, but it went downhill quickly. She moved in with a man she knew, and things went sour when “he came onto her, and I don’t know if she moved out or what she did. She was angry,”
Before Rohinie snapped, she sent a final disturbing email to all her colleagues and friends:
“I need to speak to the top professionals in artificial intelligence, military and government. I need to get to the bottom of something that has been quite disruptive. Something has been happening to me and this is not my normal self and I would like to know who and why this is happening. There is either a single person or more responsible and who and why would be nice to know…. I am sorry about the incidence…. I felt the need to be extreme to see if it would work. I would normally not do such a thing.”
She truly believed that the government or some kind of powerful entity had inserted a microchip into her body, and was using nanotechnology to control her brain and actions. Rohinie had stopped taking her medication, was under extreme stress from being homeless, and was estranged and alienated from her family and loved ones.
Something terrible was about to happen; something gruesome that would shock all of Toronto.
Murder on Bay Street
If you’re a Canadian, you’ll be familiar with Shoppers Drug Mart; an overpriced pharmacy/drugstore/convenience shop hybrid that is literally everywhere. Nobody expects to get knifed while they’re grabbing groceries, but that’s exactly what happened on Dec 11, 2015 at the 66 Wellington St W location of Shoppers.
Rosemarie Junor was a 28-year old ultrasound technician who was newly married and well liked among family, friends and colleagues for her cheerful and uplifting spirit. Like Rohinie, she was of Indo-Caribbean descent (a Guyanese mother and Trinidadian father).
At 2:35 PM, Rosemarie left work to walk to the Shoppers located in the dungeon-like underground PATH system. As she browsed the aisles for lotion, she spoke with a friend on her cellphone. Suddenly and without warning, Rohinie Bisesar walked up to Rosemarie and stabbed her once in the heart. Rosemarie’s horrified friend heard her scream through the phone line.
The stabbing proved to be fatal, as the knife had pierced through Rosemarie’s heart and vital organs. Rohinie left the kitchen knife she had purchased at a local Dollar Store on a cosmetics display, and calmly walked out.
A bleeding Rosemarie collapsed at the pharmacy in the back of the store and yelled out, “Help me, I’ve just been stabbed!” When an employee asked her if she knew her assailant, Rosemarie told her that she did not. Tragically, Rosemarie died after five comatose days in the hospital. She was in a vegetative state, and her family was forced to take her off life support.
Earlier that year, a hopeful Rosemarie had posted this on her Facebook: “Dear God, Thank you for another day of Life. Thanks for another day of waking up healthy and happy.” Young, in love and successful; her life had been cut short abruptly.
Rohinie remained on the run for four days, during which she was the most wanted woman in the country. She was finally captured and set to a maximum security prison. When Rohinie’s father was quizzed by reporters, he gave a cryptic and strange answer: “People need to know what happened. Because she was highly educated.”
In prison, investigators tried to uncover why Rohinie committed the crime when she didn’t even know Rosemarie personally. Some felt like there was a connection between the two women because they were both Indo-Caribbean, as it is not often that women of South Asian descent randomly kill one another.
Rohinie gave police a surprisingly cold answer. She told them that she chose to stab Rosemarie because they were both of the same height. However, she claimed that she was being controlled by the voices in her head, and that they instructed her to kill.
She gave a disturbing firsthand account of the murder during her psychiatric assessment:
“The day started as usual…I showered and dressed…was reading business newspapers to keep up my knowledge…I don’t recall how I got downtown…I heard the voice downtown in late morning… It said what is the worst thing you can do…I was really agitated and upset…phased out, not thinking, like those river stones again…stepping one at a time.
I’m usually in the Starbucks at Adelaide St., East and Yonge Street…It’s easy to sit and do work, I had my laptop…I pretend to read but I’m zoned out…distracted by the voice and the movements and communication.
The voice said to get a knife…went to the Dollar store to buy the knife…I’m familiar with the place and it’s close to the subway.
I went back through King or St. Andrew subway entrance…went to the bathroom in First Canadian place…didn’t want to hurt someone…A lady asked if I was okay…I’m in the concourse, moving from one bench to another…
Then the voice, communication and movements made me sit up, turn, walk straight into the Shopper’s fast…I was not an agreeable participant…went right up to the person (victim) with no hesitation, barely took it (knife) out of the bag…My arm was in L-shaped.
The voice said, if you mean it do it…The voice and movements raised my hand, pushed forward…It was like the knife was sticking to my hand and couldn’t be dropped…I was spending all my energy fighting the voice and communications…fighting the invisible entity…As soon as it happened I wanted to get away…traveled back home…The voice said I should have kept the knife.”
Following her apprehension, Rohinie was charged with first degree murder. The media was shocked at how such a small and harmless looking woman could lash out so violently. Her former colleagues were surprised as well, with a friend named Andrius Pone describing Rohinie as a “professional career woman and a sophisticated individual. Rohinie is a very gentle person, she speaks in a whisper. I don’t know what has happened with her but it’s just so incredibly out of character.”
Karl Gutowski, a friend of Rohinie’s for eight years, had this to say about her:
“She seemed very sweet but odd. She’s been able to sustain herself from a large network of friends, but I speculate the list got shorter and shorter. She got that one job, but she didn’t get to keep it for too long. She couldn’t adjust to pretty normal office politics.”
In court, Rohinie was disheveled and confused. With no access to makeup and hair grooming products; her acne scars and dark undereye circles were visible, and her hair was wild and uncombed. Her lawyer Calvin Barry said she was “very upset and like a deer in headlights.”
During a 2016 appearance, she ranted and raved in court about being involved in some obscure terrorist plot that went all the way up to the prime minister and the military, and was then hospitalized and medicated before the trial was resumed.
She had also claimed that she was being “damaged” somehow by those in charge, requested a “body scan” and had strange bruises on her face which she attributed to a microchip being implanted inside her.
Rohinie told the court that the voices in her head were “a real time, progressive dialogue and conversation. Whoever it is will tell me something, I’ll tell them to go away. I have somebody [else] communicating with me. I have to listen to both of you at the same time”
In 2017, Rohinie was declared unfit to stand trial due to her severe schizophrenic symptoms. She even denied that Rosemarie was really dead. The judge sent her off to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto for psychiatric treatment.
In November of 2018, the court found Rohinie not criminally responsible for the murder of Rosemarie Junor, because she was in the throes of a psychotic episode during the homicide.
In early 2019, The Ontario Review Board decided to keep Rohinie in the CAMH mental hospital because she was still in denial about her own involvement in the murder. The board continued trying to rehabilitate her; keeping her on “a strict regime of medication, cognitive behavioural therapy and psychotherapy.”
In May of 2020, the board granted Rohinie more freedom and access to the community, due to the fact that she is now supposedly of sound mind. It is now up to her case officer to decide whether or not she can leave the facility unsupervised, and even live outside of it.
The only conditions are that she must report to her review officer on a weekly basis, as well as refrain from purchasing firearms and weapons.
Rohinie appears to have changed her tune about the killing, almost seeming to express remorse and awareness of her actions:
“I did not plan to go murder someone…It was just like time stopped with all the chaos in my mind…I feel sorry for the person (victim) caught in my illness.”
Rosemarie Junor’s family members and the broader public were not happy about the court’s recent decision. Less than five years after the unprovoked killing, Rohinie is being given lenient privileges that could perhaps go terribly wrong in regards to public safety.
Even weirder is the fact that Rohinie is still trying to apply to jobs, to this very day, deluded to the fact literally nobody will ever hire her again.
During her appearances, the courtrooms were usually packed; as Torontonians were fascinated with the macabre case and its odd defendant. The presence of so many spectators led clueless judge John Ritchie to remark, “What does Rohinie do? Is he a sports figure or something?”
A spectator tried to give Rohinie’s lawyer David Burke his contact info on a small folded note of paper as he left the courtroom; stating that he wanted to go on a date with Rohinie. Burke refused to be an intermediary.
Rohinie’s story is shocking and saddening, yet it is not surprising. Had she received proper medical treatment earlier, Rosemarie Junor would have still been alive.
Instead, the combination of parental abuse, abandonment from a man who she loved and devoted herself to for six years, schizophrenia, homelessness, debt, work-related pressures and unemployment all came together to create a volatile outburst of unpredictable violence. Being a South Asian woman in Canada is tough, and this may have contributed to her stress and frustration as well.
At the time of the stabbing, Rohinie was 40 years old and most likely in the grip of a midlife crisis, without a home or anyone to care for her, and Christmas was fast approaching. She snapped and did something awful that the world will never be able to forgive her of, due to things beyond her control.
The question remains- will they really release her from the institution? Should they? While she should not rot her life away in a traditional prison, the memory of her crime still seems too fresh and new. She needs help and long term care.
What will become of Rohinie Bisesar? Only time and her own sense of guilt and repentance will answer that.