In a tear-filled courtroom, family members of the late Chris Ausman stood one-by-one to share their victim impact statements about how his murder impacted their lives.
Steven Pirko was found guilty by a jury in June 2019 for murdering Chris Ausman by smashing him over the head with a hammer just over six years ago on Jan. 25, 2014. While a life sentence is required for a second-degree murder conviction, the sentencing hearing set for today (Jan. 30) and tomorrow (Jan. 31) will determine how long Pirko will serve before he’s eligible for parole.
During Crown counsel David Grabavac’s submissions this morning, he told 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.”
This pain became apparent as Ausman’s family shared their victim impact statements.
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 her son’s 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, 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.
Grabavac said the jury arrived at a conviction for second-degree murder, rejecting the defences of intoxication and defence of others, which he anticipates will be part of defence lawyer Jordan Watt’s submissions.
“Christopher Ausman did not die because he engaged in a drunken consensual fight with Elrich Dyck; he died because Steven Pirko brought a hammer into a fistfight he was not a part of,” said Grabavac.
While sharing Pirko’s previous criminal history, Grabavac revealed Pirko was convicted of breaking into Rutland’s Greek Taverna in 2012, prompting the bar to install video cameras. Ironically those very same cameras caught the murder in 2014, allowing police to identify Pirko as a suspect.
Pirko sat in the prisoners’ box in a red prison-issued jumper, looking down for most of the morning’s processions.
The sentencing hearing is ongoing.