Confess to Killing a Sex Worker Today, Go Free Tomorrow

by Cara on May 17, 2008

in assholes, courts, International, misogyny, patriarchy, sex work, slut-shaming, violence against women and girls

One day after being convicted in the death of a sex worker, having killed her by his own admission, Wayne Ryczak was free to walk the streets.

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.

How could this be? Well, to start out with, he not only pleaded guilty to manslaughter rather than go to trial and risk a conviction on second-degree murder, he also testified that Beck broke into his trailer, attacked him, and he acted in self-defense. And apparently, the judge bought it.

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.

Right. Well I imagine that it would be difficult to refute his version of events when the only other person there is dead and Ryczack admittedly cleaned up any evidence.

Ryczak said he was in shock, panicky and worried somebody would come along. What would they think? he asked.

“I didn’t know if anybody would believe my story of what really occurred, that I was attacked. I assume she was there to rob me.”

He told court he sat in shock for about five minutes before struggling to get Beck into the back of his hatchback.

“She wasn’t a light person. It was very difficult for me to move her,” he said. “I struggled for a while to get her into the vehicle.”

Later, Ryczak said, he swept his floor, vacuumed and took apart the lamp, putting three metal pieces in the recycling bin and the shade and broken bulb in the garbage.

So, no evidence that Beck committed a break and entry, let alone an assault. The man who admitted to causing her death also admitted to disposing of her body and destroying all evidence he could find. And he was sentenced to one more day in jail because his version of events cannot be proven false.

It amazes me that it was the prosecution who actually made these arguments. They also made a point to note that “If Miss Beck had not sustained injuries, the level of cocaine may have killed her.” Great. And since we know that she died from injuries and don’t seem to be suggesting that Ryczak forced the drugs on her, this is relevant . . . how, exactly?

The judge used a controversial “2-for-1″ sentencing system — meaning that the time Ryczak had served in jail while awaiting trial counted double. Since only 14 months, not 15, had been served, the judge also apparently stretched things a bit so that Ryczack wouldn’t have to remain incarcerated for two long additional months. After all, the guy said he was sorry (and the judge admittedly took this into consideration).

Something tells me if the victim had been a soccer mom instead of a prostitute, this all would have turned out a lot differently. Being a sex worker does not make one a thief or a violent criminal. Nothing I’ve found suggests that Beck had a history of robbery or violent crimes. And Ryczak’s story is astonishingly convoluted; how exactly Beck attacked him, he defended himself and then she somehow ended up half-naked isn’t quite explained. But hey — she did have a history of selling sex.

And Ryczak has a history of buying sex! That, seemingly, doesn’t matter. What’s more, the Canoe article notes in what I’m sure is just a really unfortunate coincidence, that his own son has received a suspended sentence for attacking a sex worker. Gee, isn’t it a small, small world?

But let’s be fair. Before we go and get really upset, we ought to remember what a nice guy Ryczak is.

Philip Martens, vice-president and part owner of Newman Bros., said he’s never seen a person more dedicated to his work. Ryczak “lives, eats and sleeps” Newman Bros., Martens testified in court Wednesday. Ryczak took work home without asking, was thorough in his job and got along great with everyone, he said.

“I have no reservations; I’d take him back tomorrow.”

His mother, Eleanor Ryczak, an 81-year-old retired nurse and active hospital volunteer, testified her son always came to her home when she needed something.

Divorced for 18 years, Ryczak also had an active role in the life of his 26-year-old son, Dan, she said. She agreed with defence lawyer Geoffrey Hadfield that it’s been difficult for Ryczak to have no contact with his son over the last year because of a court order.

“He’s always been a caring and considerate son and interested in all of the family. Brothers and sisters, even nieces and nephews.”

Over the years, he’s been a cub scout leader and a lacrosse coach.

Oh, well that’s good. Wouldn’t want to let some little thing like his killing a woman affect your view of him. That sure as hell wouldn’t be fair. Back off, folks, the man plays lacrosse!

It seems that when the murdered woman in question is a sex worker, we might as well break out our Rape Apologist Bingo Cards. It’s depressing how much applies; I’ve got at least seven squares filled in already.

It really doesn’t get much more outrageous or disgusting than this. When Deb Nanson, founder of a city sex-trade task force, said that the sentence “just opened the door to murdering our most vulnerable population,” the only exaggeration made is in the suggestion that the door was previously shut. Though statistics vary widely, prostitutes are much, much more likely to be murdered than other members of society. And since this kind of very lenient sentencing for violent crimes committed against sex workers is not an isolated incident, the simple fact is that the crimes are not taken seriously, and these women’s lives are not being valued. All because people look down on their fucking jobs.

It’s that simple, and it’s that repulsive.

There are calls for an appeal of the sentence. I wish them well, and I hope that the Attorney General Chris Bentley (whose contact information can be found here) does his damn job. But I won’t exactly be holding my breath.

Story via Isabel at bastard.logic. Matttbastard has more at Shakes.

cross-posted from Feministe

Bookmark and Share

{ 11 comments }

1 SunlessNick May 17, 2008 at 7:18 pm

There’s a doublethink with prostitutes. On one level, they’re seen as there to be used – kind of like toilet paper – and anything men people want to use them for is ok, even if it kills them. On another, there is some shame attached in going to prostitutes, but men don’t like to be shamed – so the prostitutes are also seen as slutty temptresses bringing shame to decent men – and anything that’s done to them therefore becomes a kind of revenge or punishment.

2 SunlessNick May 17, 2008 at 7:23 pm

But it’s very telling when an admission to destroying evidence counts towards a defence rather than a prosecution.

[Where I said "men people" the men was meant to be strikethrough; I must have coded it wrong]

3 GallingGalla May 17, 2008 at 8:03 pm

The comment thread on the bastard.logic story made me sick. A bunch of men (and especially one guy) making every excuse in the book for why the “sentence” was justified — probably enough to create a “hating on sex workers” bingo card.

4 Cara May 17, 2008 at 8:19 pm

There is an anti-sex worker bingo card (made by Renegade Evolution), but it’s aimed at discussions had with radical feminists who are extremely hostile towards sex worker rights. But there absolutely could be one aimed at more mainstream views of sex workers.

5 Sara May 18, 2008 at 1:25 pm

Even without the sex-worker thing, Europe and Canada ROUTINELY give extremely light sentences for murder compared to the states. They bask in their elitist liberal stance that their society can somehow “rehabilitate” these monsters and its a sign of pride for them to give light sentences.

6 Sera May 19, 2008 at 7:24 am

Yeesh. Radical feminists aren’t at all hostile towards sex worker rights and Renegade Evolution drives me out of my skull by trying to cast herself as some sort of victim of my hatred. She reminds me of men bitching about the matriarchy or Fox News anchors going on about the liberal media.

You would be hard-pressed to find a radical feminist who didn’t think this was horrible every bit as much as a liberal feminist. We just happen to think that for most sex workers, being viewed as violable is an inherent part of their profession and in fact why men come to them and that the best thing they could possibly do for themselves is GTFO, with our help.

White educated American upper-class women bitching about how anybody who thinks prostitution is bad, which is the reality for most prostitutes in the world, is oppressing them make me sick. They are in fact racist elitist asses who are silencing the voice of poor people, people of color, and people from other countries who do not enjoy prostitution and will never have access to upscale sex work.

7 Cara May 19, 2008 at 9:26 am

Uh . . Sera:

1. I never said that all radical feminist are hostile toward sex worker rights. I said that they exist. And they do.

2. You can argue over whether or not Ren is a “victim,” but the fact of the matter remains that some of the things people who claim themselves to be feminists say to her make my eyeball pop out of my head.

3. Did I ever say that radical feminists wouldn’t find this story to be appalling? Anywhere? Because I’m not seeing it.

4. This post is absolutely not the place to have this conversation, but I do not believe that speaking about your own life while acknowledging on an extraordinarily regular basis that your story isn’t the most common isn’t silencing.

8 keshmeshi May 19, 2008 at 12:37 pm

I don’t trust any man, or woman, who’s married to his job. It hints at a maladjusted personality; someone who can’t relate to other people and thus avoids quality social experiences and human contact. Although I’ll give an exception to people who have extremely competitive jobs (doctors, lawyers, etc.) who simply have no choice but to live at work. This guy doesn’t seem to qualify.

9 Renee May 20, 2008 at 3:00 am

To truly understand this case I think that it is important to view it inside of its local context. I attended one day of this trial and live not far from where Becks body was dumped. I recently posted on the community attitude toward prostitution as well as the economic dependency the regency has on the sex trade field. When these two aforementioned items are considered the verdict while horrible is understandable. Prostitutes in this region are meant to be invisible. They conflict with the nice “family” image the region has invested so much money trying to promote.
link

10 Cara May 20, 2008 at 8:00 am

Interesting post, Renee. But yeah, I can’t say that I’m really surprised by this grotesque absurdity. Just absolutely appalled and ashamed for the human race.

Also, I didn’t even notice that this is in the Niagra region. I live less than 90 minutes away from Niagra Falls . . .

11 Rachel May 22, 2008 at 9:31 am

My god. As ever.

{ 6 trackbacks }

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: