Steven Pirko, a Kelowna man who interrupted a fist fight and bludgeoned his unsuspecting victim to death with a hammer, has been handed a life sentence with no chance of parole for 11 years.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Allan Betton delivered the decision at the Kelowna court house on Friday at Pirko’s sentencing hearing for the second degree murder of Christoper Ausman.
Pirko, 27, stood in court and apologized to Ausman’s daughter and other family members seated in the court room gallery.
“I wish I could take back what I did,” Pirko said while facing Ausman’s family.
“I just want to say I am very, very sorry for everything I put you through. It makes me sick how sad that little girl is and how sad you all are.”
Killing happened during fist fight between strangers
The killing happened during a senseless fist fight between two strangers in the early morning hours Jan 25, 2014.
Pirko was walking with his friend Elrick Dyck along Highway 33 in Kelowna’s Rutland neighbourhood. The pair had been drinking and Dyck was challenging people they came across to a fight.
He found a willing combatant in Ausman who was walking alone on the other side of the highway.
Ausman, 32, had also been drinking that night and he ran across the road to take Dyck on when he was challenged.
Ausman started to gain the upper hand and just over a minute into the fight Dyck called to Pirko for assistance.
Pirko took a hammer he was carrying and struck Ausman repeatedly from behind.
“Of all of the options available to Mr. Pirko he went to the hammer,” Betton said during the sentencing hearing on Friday.
“He struck Ausman in the leg and then went directly to his head.”
Pirko hit Ausman more that a dozen times with the hammer including three fatal blows to the head.
Ausman’s body was found in a pool of blood later that morning by an RCMP officer.
Pirko was captured on a nearby restaurant’s surveillance camera and identified as a suspect.
Ironically, the security camera was only installed by the restaurant’s owner because of a break-in Pirko had previously committed to steal two bottles of alcohol from the business.
Life sentence with 11 years of parole ineligibility
Pirko was was arrested in 2016 and charged with second degree murder.
Last July, a jury found him guilty of second degree murder — a crime with carries a life sentence.
On Friday Betton handed Pirko a 11-year period of parole ineligibility.
After the sentencing hearing Ausman’s brother Kelly said he accepts Pirko’s apology.
“I truly believe there was remorse in that apology,” he said.
“There will never be forgiveness, but I hope nothing but positive throughout his life. You know, do something good for yourself and honour my brother.”
Ausman’s mother Annie Hutton embraced Pirko’s mother in court after the hearing. Hutton said she is ready to move on from the tragedy.
“In the whole big scheme of things, nobody really wins at this. Three young men collided that night. Three worlds got changed horribly,” she said.
“It’s a very sad, sad scenario. We can move forward now to start a new journey.”
Although Pirko was handed 11 years of parole ineligibility, he will be able to apply for parole in just over eight years because the court credited him with 947 days served for the time he spent in custody awaiting trial.
Kelly Ausman said his family has no plans to petition the parole board to keep Pirko incarcerated when he finally is able to apply to be released from prison.
“Now we are hoping just for some closure so that we can find peace with Chris not here, but hold onto his memory in our hearts,” he said.