Steven Pirko brought a hammer to a fistfight he wasn’t a part of.
On Friday, he was handed a life sentence with no chance of parole for 11 years in a Kelowna courtroom for the murder of Cranbrook resident Christopher Ausman.
In the early morning hours of Jan. 25, 2014, Pirko and his friend Elrich Dyck were drunk, walking down Highway 33 in Rutland.
Dyck was looking for a fight with just about everyone they passed.
Ausman, who’d also been drinking, ended up the willing combatant Dyck was looking for.
Just over a minute into the fight, Ausman gained the upper hand, prompting Dyck to call out to Pirko for assistance.
Pirko took a hammer he had been carrying and struck Ausman in the leg first before hitting him on the head several times, killing him.
“Of all of the options available to Mr. Pirko, he went for the hammer,” said B.C. Supreme Court Justice Allan Betton during his sentencing decision.
Pirko and Dyck fled, leaving Ausman to die on the sidewalk. A passing police officer found his body around 2 a.m. that morning.
Pirko was convicted of second-degree murder by a jury in June 2019.
While a life sentence was a foregone conclusion with the second-degree murder conviction, last week’s two-day sentencing determined the length of Pirko’s parole ineligibility —which Betton decided should be slightly more than the 10-year minimum sought by the defence and less than the 12 to 15 years the Crown suggested.
“He has expressed remorse and in my view, it’s sincere,” said Betton.
Due to the 947 days credit he received for time served, Pirko will spend another eight-and-a-half years behind bars before he’s eligible for parole.
Ausman’s friends and family broke down into tears as the man convicted of killing their friend, son and father faced them and apologized on Friday.
“I just want to say I’m very, very sorry for everything,” said Pirko, addressing Ausman’s family from the prisoner’s box.
“It makes me sick how sad that little girl is and how sad all of you are. I feel horrible and I always will.
“I’d give almost anything to take it back.”
The pain felt by Ausman’s family became apparent as they shared their victim impact statements on Thursday, which moved most in the courtroom to tears.
Ausman’s daughter, Dylynn Couttie, now 16 years old, was just 10 years old when 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.
“I will never remember what his voice sounded like or how he dressed.”
Ausman’s mother Annie Hutton said she has tried to find the words to explain her grief for the past six years and called losing her son “every parent’s worst nightmare.”
“What is left is nothing short of a living hell,” she said. “My shattered heart will never heal.”
The end of the more than six-year-saga was marked by a tear-filled embrace between two unlikely parties — the mothers of both Pirko and Ausman.
“I want you to tell Steven to get better and to get his education and when he gets out, to help people,” Hutton told Pirko’s mother.
“Please tell him that for me.”
Hutton said while she’s glad to be done with the court proceedings, it’s a situation in which “nobody really wins.”
“Three young men collided that night. Three worlds got changed horribly,” she said on the courthouse steps after the sentencing concluded.
“It’s a very sad, sad scenario. We can move forward now to start a new journey.”