May 3, 2019 8:33 pm
Updated: May 3, 2019 9:01 pm

Kelowna jury begins to hear evidence at murder trial

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More than five years after the fact, a Kelowna murder trial has begun and the jury is starting to hear evidence.

It happened in Rutland on a late winter night where there was an encounter between three men. One of them didn’t come out of it alive.

It was January 25, 2014, at 1:30 a.m., when 32-year-old Chris Ausman was attacked on a sidewalk on Highway 33 near Rutland Road.

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He had just come from the 7-Eleven across the street when he allegedly encountered two men.

Ausman’s body was found about a half-hour after the attack by a passing RCMP officer. Ausman was pronounced dead at the scene.

The cause of death was blunt-force trauma to the head.

Police gathered evidence at the crime scene, including security video from nearby businesses.

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But Ausman’s murder remained a mystery for nearly three years — until police arrested 32-year-old Steven Pirko of Kelowna and charged him with second-degree murder.

As the trial got underway this week, the jury heard that Pirko had been on the RCMP’s radar from the start, that he was seen in some of the surveillance video and was questioned by police two days after the killing.

He denied any involvement and released. But police put him under surveillance and arrested him in November of 2016.

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Pirko, according to the Crown, confessed to hitting Ausman with a hammer.

The crown says that on the night of the killing, Pirko and a friend left a birthday party. They had been drinking and were out looking for a fight.

The friend crossed paths with Ausman, who had also been drinking, and the two got into a fight.

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But the crown says the friend who started the fight was losing the battle and Pirko joined in, and allegedly struck Ausman in the head with the hammer.

The friend, who got into the fight with Ausman in the first place, was not charged and will be testifying for the crown.

It’s going to be a lengthy trial — up to five weeks and more than 20 witnesses.

Ausman had moved to Kelowna from Cranbrook several years ago and was the single father of a young daughter.

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