Wayne Ryczak was released from the Niagara Detention Centre in Thorold, Ont., on Thursday evening. Just yesterday, the St. Catharines, Ont., man admitted to killing a prostitute and dumping her body on a rural road last year. His victim, 29-year-old Stephine Beck, grew up in Halifax. (BOB TYMYZECIN / CP)
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ST. CATHARINES, Ont. — The day after admitting he killed a woman and dumped her body on a rural road, a St. Catharines, Ont., man was released from jail.
Judge Stephen Glithero sentenced Wayne Ryczak, 55, to one day in jail on Thursday for the death of 29-year-old Stephine Beck.
The one-day sentence is in addition to time Ryczak already served 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 on Thursday evening.
"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 a road in nearby Vineland 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 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 at about 3:30 a.m. when he entered his trailer. 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 Crown is not in any position to refute his version of events," Pang said.
Ryczak’s lawyer, Geoffrey Hadfield, argued Beck was unlawfully in Ryczak’s home, probably with criminal intent, and it was in that context that the death occurred.
"I wish I could bring back the hands of time, but I can’t," Ryczak said.
"Mom, I especially apologize for any stress and grief I’ve caused you," he said.
Glithero called Ryczak’s actions after the death "callous and uncaring."
"It was simply inhumane to dump Miss Beck’s body in the snow, in the countryside as he did," he said.
He emphasized the sentence was not a measure of the value of Beck’s life, but was determined based on the circumstances of the case.