A Penticton man convicted for the second time in a brutal sex slaying will be eligible to apply for parole in 2020, a Kelowna judge ruled Friday.
Corey Wolf Swite, 26, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder this week after Kamloops prosecutor Rob Bruneau finished calling evidence against him. Swite automatically received life imprisonment, so the only question was how long he would have to wait before being allowed to seek parole.
Bruneau asked for 15 years, and Victoria defence lawyers Kevin McCullough and Dale Melville
requested 10 years.
After taking into consideration Swite's aboriginal upbringing, his character, the nature of the offence and its circumstances, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Ian Josephson fixed the period for parole eligibility at 13 years. That time starts from the date of his arrest in February 2007, so he could apply in 2020. Swite has been jailed awaiting the trial outcome for six years.
"It (the parole eligibility) was pretty much, I think, as we all expected," said Bruneau outside the Kelowna Law Courts.
"I think it was the right result. The judge pretty much came down the middle. The judge is a very experienced criminal law judge. He had some very difficult issues to have to resolve. (Swite) was 20 years old at the time and had no criminal record at all (although) it was a horrendous attack."
A non-aboriginal man likely would have received a slightly longer non-parole eligibility period.
The granddaughter of the victim, who lives in California, was "a little upset" at Swite's appeal of his first conviction, said Bruneau.
"It's difficult for them to understand the process, but once it was explained to them, they handled it well," he said. "(Relatives) wrote moving victim impact statements."
Josephson, who provided written copies of his judgment, said: "The victim here was doing no more than sleeping in her bed in her home in the middle of the night.
"One of the greatest fears of any person in any community, particularly for a helpless elderly women, is a break-in by a stranger in such circumstances, accompanied by violence in the extreme. This requires a heightened degree of denunciation and deterrence."
Swite, 20 on Aug. 4, 2006, was intoxicated when he broke into the apartment building of an 86-year-old aboriginal acquaintance at 3 a.m. As he searched for cigarettes and cash, the woman awoke. He pushed her to her bed and held a pillow over her head until she died of asphyxiation. He then sexually assaulted her lifeless body.
A B.C. Supreme Court jury convicted him of first-degree murder at the end of a 2008 trial, but it was overturned on appeal because of mistakes by the first judge.
During the past six years, Swite has remained sober for some time, wants to return to his aboriginal roots, has re-bonded with his father and hopes to join him in a small business venture.
Josephson requested that Swite be offered culturally appropriate programs while incarcerated in federal prison, adding "it is my hope that he can continue on the path of sobriety."
Swite was raised on a reserve by his grandparents because his parents suffered from substance abuse. His mother died in her early 30s from substance abuse.
He began drinking alcohol at an early age and was an alcoholic by 20. He had little formal education, no job skills training and was unemployed other than a minor band-supported manual labour project. His daily life consisted of acquiring and consuming alcohol and cigarettes, and partying with friends.
He was the victim of a violent stabbing, and also witnessed at close hand the alcohol-induced shooting of three friends and relatives by a cousin, noted Josephson.