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Homicide victim's brother left to ask why

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Kelly Ausman, right, can't figure out who would want to kill his brother Chris, left.
As Chris Ausman's family holds a memorial service for him this weekend, many wonder how such a popular guy could die so violently.
A Facebook page devoted to Ausman's life has attracted close to 1,000 followers. Tributes and funny stories abound, but the thread connecting them is the anger and sadness friends feel. Why would someone kill a random stranger as he walked along a well-lit street in Kelowna?
His brother Kelly Ausman has wrestled with that question since he learned his best friend was found dead in a pool of blood on a Highway 33 sidewalk early Saturday. He can't fathom why no one came to Chris's aid.
"There's just no closure for us, which is tough," he said in an interview. "Where are the witnesses? Where is the ambulance? Nobody called. Were people scared of what was going on and the people involved?"
The brothers were invited to a poker tournament Friday night at a house in Rutland. Of the 20 men who played, the Ausmans knew three well.
The stakes were low - a $20 buy-in and the winner takes $200. Kelly, 29, left early.
Kelly worked the next morning and took the car home because Chris, 32, had been drinking beer. Chris planned to get a ride with a friend or call a cab, Kelly said.
Chris texted Kelly at 11 p.m. saying he'd made the final table and was having a good time. He ended up placing third. Kelly believes he left the house at 1:15 a.m. Saturday. His cellphone was dead, so he walked to the 7-Eleven store at Rutland Road and Highway 33 to get a cab and a hotdog.
The trek would have taken him less than 10 minutes. Kelly doubts he made it to the store. Strangers in a parked car or on foot may have said something to Chris and he answered back.
"I know my brother's a strong, independent person, and if something was said, he would have definitely replied back and carried on with his business. That's where I fear he was attacked after he walked away. That's my assumption."
A Mountie patrolling the area after the bars closed discovered Chris's crumpled body in front of a vacant shop near Rutland Road. Police retrieved surveillance video from nearby cameras that shows pedestrians and vehicles passing by the area around that time. They've made no arrests.
Investigators are withholding the cause of death. They've interviewed everyone at the poker tournament, but Kelly doubts any of the men are suspects.
"They were the same as Chris and I. They were just out to play some poker with the boys, nothing more," he said. "I don't think money was a motive by any means."
Raised in Cranbrook, the brothers had been working together as plumbers in Kelowna for seven years. Chris studied plumbing at Okanagan College for two years and planned to start his third. Both men worked for Ace Plumbing and Heating.
Kelly is disturbed that a confident man like Chris was attacked walking alone at night. He wonders about the safety of teenagers who go to a party and walk home by themselves.
But what's really bugging him is that no one stepped in to stop the attack. Chris was left to die alone and lie there for at least half an hour until police showed up.
"With the trail of blood, where is the ambulance? Because there's nobody seen my brother go across the street?" Kelly said. "There's a lot of answers that will come out."
Chris would be "overwhelmed" by the compliments and gratitude people have expressed on his memorial page. His family, friends and 10-year-old daughter, Dylynn, meant everything to him, said Kelly.
The memorial is set for 1 p.m. Saturday at the Eagles Hall in Cranbrook. The family plans to hold a celebration of life in Kelowna at a later date.
Friends have started an education fund for Dylynn. Chris's mother, Anne Hutton, is pleading for people with information to call the RCMP tip line at 250-470-6236 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

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