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Kelowna man sentenced for manslaughter in second ruling of hammer killing

Steven Pirko was found guilty of second degree murder in 2019 but the decision has been overruled
Steve Pirko (left) is charged with the 2014 murder of Chris Ausman (right) of Cranbrook. (File photo)

For the second time, a Kelowna man is being sentenced for the violent death of a Cranbrook man in 2014.

Steven Pirko pleaded guilty to manslaughter in a Kelowna B.C. Supreme Court on July 6 and has been sentenced to eight years in prison, but he will not spend any more time in custody.

Initially, Pirko was found guilty of second-degree murder by a judge and jury in 2020. At the time Pirko was sentenced to 11 years in prison and would have been eligible for parole in 2028. Pirko has been in custody since his arrest in 2018.

However, three years later, in March 2023 the decision was overturned by the British Columbia Court of Appeal.

READ MORE: Kelowna man Pirko’s murder conviction overturned on appeal based on trial errors

The Court of Appeal ordered a new trial for Pirko after unanimously deciding that the trial judge “misdirected” the jury. The three-justice panel in B.C.’s highest court said that the trial judge failed to help jury members understand how a lesser offence of manslaughter could apply and how the Criminal Code allows for the lawful defence of another person.

Pirko has now entered a guilty plea for manslaughter, which carries a less severe charge than second-degree murder. A charge of manslaughter means to cause death without intention, often in the heat of the moment.

In the emotion-filled police testimony that was shown in Kelowna court, Pirko said “I didn’t mean to kill the guy,” between sobs.

The incident occurred in 2014, when Pirko and his friend Elrich Dyck were walking down Highway 33, in Kelowna. Pirko and Dyck then became involved in an altercation with Christopher Ausman. The Kelowna court was shown a video of Pirko’s police testimony and admission, which includes a reenactment of the incident. Pirko alleges that during the altercation Dyck was overpowered and being badly beaten up by Ausman. In the video, Pirko said that he stood by until Dyck asked him to step in and help. The accused said that he initially hit Ausman in the back of the knee with a hammer, but said that “the guy was a tank,” and the blows did not deter Ausman from punching Dyck.

Then, Pirko hit Ausman in the head with the hammer at least once. Ausman collapsed to the ground ans Pirko and Dyck fled the scene. Pirko returned shortly after to retrieve an iPod that contained his name and could have linked him to the incident.

Pirko said that immediately after seeing Ausman laying on the ground, he knew that he was dead. He did not call 911 and left the scene again.

READ MORE: BREAKING: Kelowna murderer, Steven Pirko, sentenced to life in prison

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

“This was completely a senseless killing,” said Justice Beames while delivering her verdict.

However, she said that the incident was not premeditated. “The attack was completely impulsive, and he only intervened when asked.”

Pirko stood in Kelowna court, wearing his red prison sweat suit while Justice Beames read him the sentencing.

He was given a sentence of eight years, which, given the nine years of credited time already served, Pirko will not spend any more time in custody.

Pirko will also be subject to a probation of three years.


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Jacqueline Gelineau

About the Author: Jacqueline Gelineau

I'm a reporter in the beginning stages of my career. I joined the team at Capital News in November 2021...
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