Killed in hammer attack

The Crown painted a picture of a senseless killing during opening statements in Steven Pirko's second-degree murder trial, Wednesday.

After two days of jury selection, the trial began with Crown prosecutor David Grabavac delivering his opening statement to the seven-woman, five-man jury.

The body of 32-year-old Chris Ausman was found by a passing RCMP officer on the sidewalk of Highway 33, near the intersection of Rutland Road, just after 2 a.m. on Jan. 25, 2014.

The officer assumed the man had passed out drunk after leaving the nearby Cadillac Lounge, but when he got closer, he saw streams of blood coming from his head. Ausman had no pulse and was pronounced dead at the scene.

An autopsy later determined the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head, from a strike with a hammer.

Police obtained surveillance footage from the nearby Olympia Greek Taverna restaurant, which showed two men walking down the the sidewalk at 1:37 a.m., near where the body was found.

The two appeared to have a verbal interaction with a third man across the highway, before the third man came across the street, and one of the two men removes his jacket. All three then move out of frame.

Police determined the solo man in the video was Ausman. Just two days later, the two others were identified as 21-year-old Steven Pirko and 23-year-old Elrich Dyck.

Seven days after Ausman's death, police searched Pirko's home, seizing his clothes and other items. Pirko denied his involvement in Ausman's death in two separate interviews with police.

Grabavac told the jury that after 33 months of investigation, police arrested Pirko on Nov. 18, 2016.

After his arrest, Pirko confessed to hitting Ausman with the hammer on the morning in question.

Pirko told police he and Dyck had left a birthday party that morning, after a night of drinking. As the pair walked to the 7-Eleven near Rutland Road, he said Dyck was trying to pick fights with others on the street. Pirko had the hammer on him at the time.

After “some communication" from across the street, Ausman and Dyck began fighting. Ausman “got the upper hand" in the fight, and Dyck called on Pirko for help. 

“Mr. Pirko used the hammer he was carrying to strike Mr. Ausman, inflicting a number of injuries,” Grabavac said.

Ausman had a blood alcohol level about three times the legal driving limit at the time of his death.

Dyck, who was not charged in the altercation, will be testifying as a Crown witness in the trial. His father, Leslie Dyck, will also be testifying about conversations he had with Pirko following Ausman's death.

The trial is scheduled for five weeks. 

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