Family members wept in B.C. Supreme Court in Kelowna, B.C., as they described the heartache and longing they’ve suffered since Christopher Ausman was violently killed six years ago.
Ausman was struck multiple times in the head with a hammer wielded by Steven Pirko during a skirmish along Highway 33 in the Okanagan city in the early morning hours of Jan. 25, 2014.
Ausman was the 32-year-old father of a daughter who was 10 at the time.
His daughter, Dylynn Couttie, fought back tears in a the courtroom as she described the pain and social anxiety she has felt since she lost her father.
“I will never be able to know who my father was. I can only hear about who he was,” she said, reading from a victim impact statement on Thursday.
“I will never remember what his voice sounded like or how he dressed.”
Ausman’s mother Annie Hutton told the court she has been living “every parent’s nightmare” since her son was murdered.
“What is left is nothing short of a living hell,” she said. “My shattered heart will never heal.”
Killed during early morning fist fight
The court heard how Ausman died of blunt-force trauma to his head during a fist fight with a stranger he encountered on the street.
Ausman was walking alone along the highway when he was challenged by Priko’s friend Elrich Dyck from the other side of the roadway.
Ausman ran across the street and engaged in a ‘consensual fight’ with Dyck, according to Crown prosecutor David Grabavac.
When Ausman gained the upper hand just over a minute into the fight, Dyck called out for Pirko to help him.
Pirko raised a hammer he had been carrying and struck the unsuspecting Ausman in the head three times from behind, Grabavac said.
“Pirko intended to cause his death or intended to cause bodily harm that he knew was likely to cause his death,” said Grabavac.
“He knew the damage a hammer could do to Ausman’s head prior to striking him.”
Ausman’s body was later found on the street by the RCMP.
Pirko was identified as a suspect when he and Dyck were captured on a nearby restaurant’s security camera.
Ironically, it was the same restaurant that Pirko previously broke into to steal alcohol — an incident that prompted the business’ owner to install the security cameras that later filmed Pirko the morning of the killing, according to Grabavac.
Pirko was found guilty of second degree murder by a Kelowna jury last June.
Second degree murder carries an automatic life sentence with no eligibility for parole for at least 10 years.
On Thursday the court heard how Pirko, who was only 22-years-old at the time of the murder, had a troubled upbringing of poverty, homelessness, neglect and substance abuse.
Grabavac argued those facts didn’t reduce his moral culpability and asked Supreme Court Justice Allan Betton to set parole ineligibility at 12 to 15 years.
Pirko’s lawyer asked Betton for a period of 10 years before Pirko is eligible for parole.
Betton is expected to hand down his sentencing decision on Friday.