Steve Pirko (left) is charged with the 2014 murder of Chris Ausman (right) of Cranbrook. (File photo)

Kelowna murderer responsible for installation of cameras that caught him

Justice Allan Betton is anticipated to come back with his decision on sentencing tomorrow morning

What goes around comes around.

It was revealed during the first day of Steven Pirko’s sentencing hearing for the 2014 murder of Christopher Ausman, that Pirko was unknowingly responsible for the installation of the security cameras that eventually aided in his arrest.

Nearly two years before the incident in which Pirko smashed Ausman over the head with a hammer, he robbed the Greek Taverna in Rutland.

This seemingly innocuous petty theft ended in Pirko running off with two bottles of liquor, for which he was eventually convicted. This incident forced the restaurant to install security cameras, the same cameras which would ultimatley aid in convicting Pirko, yet again.

Footage from those cameras on the night of Jan. 25, 2014, caught the moments leading up to and after Ausman’s murder and helped RCMP identify Pirko as a suspect in Ausman’s death.

“I’m not sure if that’s irony or poetic justice, but it is a very unusual circumstance,” said Crown counsel David Grabavac.

Pirko, 27, was convicted of second-degree murder by a jury in June 2019. While a life sentence is required for a second-degree murder conviction, the sentencing hearing will determine how long Pirko will serve before he’s eligible for parole. Second-degree murder carries a parole eligibility range of 10 years minimum up to a maximum of 25 years.

During Grabavac’s submissions on Thursday morning, he told BC Supreme Court Justice Allan Betton a 12 to 15 year period would be fitting and in line with the 12 years recommended by the convicting jury.

Grabavac described the circumstances and consequences of Ausman’s death as “horrible, devastating, life-altering and tragic.”

“Christopher Ausman did not die because he engaged in a drunken consensual fight with Elrich Dyck,” he said. “He died because Steven Pirko brought a hammer into a fistfight he was not a part of.”

Defence counsel Jordan Watt is seeking the minimum amount of time before Pirko’s parole eligibility at 10 years.

“There’s not a day that goes by that he doesn’t feel regret; there’s not a day that goes by he doesn’t feel remorse,” said Watt.

“Mr. Pirko is still a young and immature person, however, he is not the same person as he was five years ago and in 10 years he will not be the same person he is here in this courtroom.”

Watt went on to describe Pirko’s tumultuous home life while growing up, mentioning multiple periods of homelessness and substance abuse which resulted in criminal activity.

“As a result of not being able to connect with that structured environment (school) and learn in the way that a lot of young people do, he left,” said Watt. “He started to connect and associate with individuals like him: individuals that weren’t going to school; individuals that didn’t have strong family support; individuals that were involved in drinking and criminal activity.”

READ MORE: ‘My shattered heart will never heal,’ mother tells Kelowna courtroom during murder sentencing

READ MORE: Pirko found guilty in the 2014 second-degree murder of Chris Ausman

The pain felt by Ausman’s family became apparent as they shared their victim impact statements, which moved most in the courtroom to tears.

Anne Hutton, Ausman’s mother, said she has been trying to find the words to explain her grief for the past six years.

“This is roughly 52,560 hours of continuous recall directly proportional to the number of times my mind has travelled back to the afternoon of Jan. 25, 2014. The worst day of my life,” she said.

“The tragedy of losing a child is every parent’s worst nightmare. “

Hutton continued, reliving the day she got the phone call from her ex-husband telling her to ‘come home now’.

“My three-kilometre across town drive from work suddenly felt cross-country,” she said. “I felt my skin detach from my body. As I entered my home, my stomach pitched. The moments that followed changed my life forever.

“What is left is nothing short of a living hell. My shattered heart will never heal.”

While the rest of the family bears their own burden as well, Hutton said she has absorbed their pain on top of her own.

“This soul-crushing weight is placed like an anvil on my heart and I am forced to carry it forever whether I want to or not.”

Talking directly to her son, Hutton said she can still feel his arms around her.

“It’s not the same but it gives me the strength to carry on and be the mom and grandmother that would make you proud,” she said.

Ausman’s daughter, Dylynn Couttie, now 16-years-old, was just 10 years old when she lost her father.

She noted the memories and experiences she will miss out on forever because her father was taken from her at such a young age.

“I will never remember what his voice was like or how he dressed. I only had a father for 10 years and half of those I can’t remember,” she said. “My friends have their fathers … my friends have gotten to learn so much from their fathers that I am going to miss.

“This has and will continue to change my perspective on life forever.”

The mother of Ausman’s daughter, Misty Nabess, and his stepfather, Bob Hutton, said Ausman always knew what to say and Hutton fondly recalled conversations they would have about parenting.

Ausman’s family and friends filled up the courtroom on Thursday, some of whom donned blue shirts with angel wings surrounding Chris’ name on the back.

Christopher Ausman’s brother donning a shirt in his honour outside Kelowna Law Courts on Jan. 30. (Michael Rodriguez – Capital News)

Pirko sat in the prisoners’ box in a red prison-issued jumper, looking down through most of the day’s processions.

Justice Allan Betton said his decision will come tomorrow morning.


@michaelrdrguez
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