The day after he admitted killing a woman and dumping her body on a rural road, Wayne Ryczak was a free man.
Judge Stephen Glithero sentenced the 55-year-old St. Catharines construction worker to one day in jail Thursday for the death of 29-year-old Stephine Beck.
The one-day sentence is in addition to time Ryczak already served in jail since his March 5, 2007 arrest - time the judge said was equivalent to 30 months.
"Devastated, we're devastated," Beck's mother, Alice Dort, said from her home in Nova Scotia shortly after a police detective broke the news by phone. "This is just so unbelievable."
"There's no justice. None whatsoever. I'm just so disgusted."
The Crown asked for seven to 10 years in jail. Ryczak's lawyer requested two years less a day to be served in the community.
After deliberating for 20 minutes, Glithero said a 30-month sentence in the penitentiary would be appropriate and Ryczak had already served it. Ryczak was also given three years' probation.
He was released from the Niagara Detention Centre Thursday around 6 p.m.
"She was a very loving person," Dort said of her daughter. "She had a heart of gold. Her lifestyle, to me right now, this whole thing has judged her on her lifestyle, not as a human being."
Beck's partially naked body was found on the side of Seventh Avenue in Vineland around 6:30 a.m. on March 4, 2007. The cause of death was strangulation.
Ryczak was arrested the next day, after his neighbour told police she saw him struggling to stuff a woman's body into his hatchback
He pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder, but guilty to manslaughter on Wednesday in Superior Court in St. Catharines.
In a rare move, Ryczak took the stand after his plea and claimed he acted in self-defence when he grabbed Beck by the throat.
Ryczak testified Beck attacked him with a brass lamp around 3:30 a.m. when he entered his trailer at 241 St. Paul St. West. He said he didn't know who she was, although she may have looked familiar.
It was during the struggle that Ryczak said he pushed Beck back and she collapsed on the couch, court heard. When he checked her nose, she wasn't breathing.
He panicked and loaded her into his vehicle.
Court heard Ryczak was known to use the services of prostitutes, but there was no evidence he engaged Beck, a sex-trade worker, in that capacity. He also used drugs, sometimes for days or weeks, but there was no evidence he took drugs that day.
The Crown did have forensic evidence placing Beck in Ryczak's trailer, including her blood on a ficus tree. They also had the eyewitness account of the neighbour.
But assistant Crown attorney Grace Pang told the judge the major weakness in the Crown's case was not having evidence that could explain how the struggle occurred.
The only people in the trailer were Ryczak and Beck.
"The Crown is not in any position to refute his version of events," Pang said.
She asked the judge to take into account Ryczak's actions following Beck's death.
But Ryczak's lawyer, Geoffrey Hadfield, argued what happened after Beck died was separate from the offence itself. Beck was unlawfully in Ryczak's home, probably with criminal intent, and it was in that context, he argued, that the death occurred.
Standing hunched in the prisoner's box before sentencing, Ryczak said he was sorry he didn't call police the night Beck was killed.
"I wish I could bring back the hands of time, but I can't," he said, reading from sheets of folded paper.
He said he hoped Beck's family could forgive him.
He also apologized to his church, employer Newman Brothers and the City of St. Catharines, where he sat on the committee of adjustment. "Mom, I especially apologize for any stress and grief I've caused you," he said.
Glithero said Ryczak's actions after the death were "callous and uncaring."
"It was simply inhumane to dump Miss Beck's body in the snow, in the countryside as he did," he said.
In sentencing Ryczak, the judge said he took into account Ryczak's remorse and the guilty plea at an early stage in the court process. The issue of self-defence could have been brought up at a trial, which would have left the Crown with the burden of proof. There could also be issues raised over the cause of death because of potentially lethal doses of cocaine in Beck's system, Glithero said. Ryczak had no prior criminal record.
Glithero noted Ryczak's mother said he was a good son and his boss testified he was a valued employee. Ryczak contributed to the community by serving on the city committee and was a former cub scout leader and minor league lacrosse coach, the judge said.
"In my opinion, he presents as a person with many admirable qualities," said Glithero, adding he has values of family, community and hard work.
The judge emphasized the sentence was not a measure of the value of Beck's life, but was determined based on the circumstances of the case.
But Deb Nanson, founder of a city sex-trade task force, gasped audibly when the sentence was read in court.
The sentence "just opened the door to murdering our most vulnerable population," she said outside the courtroom.
Niagara North Crown attorney Wally Essert would not comment on the possibility of an appeal.
The result left Beck's mother defeated.
"I don't understand why he was allowed to plea. I really don't," Dort said. "And then to use self-defence. I mean, look at him.
"It's just devastating to the whole family."
Ryczak's probation conditions stipulate that he not associate with criminals and not take drugs.
His lawyer said afterwards his client won't be returning to his old lifestyle.
"If you spend 14 months in jail, you have a long time to think about life," Hadfield said. "And I know he's done that."
Hadfield said his client is extremely remorseful and will be getting the help of probation officers, his family and employer.
"We'll never see Wayne in the justice system again."
Terms of probation
Some terms of Wayne Ryczak's three years' probation:
Must stay out of the city's "hot zone" where crack houses and prostitutes are known to be, unless he has to go to St. Catharines General Hospital.
Cannot associate with anyone known to have a criminal record, with the exception of his son who received a suspended sentence for assaulting a sex-trade worker.
Must attend programs for alcohol and drug abuse and any required anger management.
Must not buy or take non-medically prescribed drugs.
Must go to court when requested.
Must keep the peace and be of good behaviour.
Report to a probation officer.
Cannot possess any firearm or restricted weapon for 10 years.
The victim surcharge was waived because Ryczak hasn't had any income while in jail from his job at Newman Brothers, where he makes $75,000 annually, plus bonuses.
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