No parole for 15 years for man convicted of 'unspeakably brutal' murder during burglary
Romeo Ryle convicted of 2nd-degree murder in 2015 death of Winnipeg's Justin Chezick
A Manitoba judge called the murder of Justin Chezick "unspeakably brutal" as he sentenced the man convicted of stabbing Chezick 38 times and then lighting his body on fire during a botched 2015 burglary.
Romeo Ryle, 22, was sentenced Thursday to life in prison with no eligibility for parole for 15 years, five years more than the minimum 10-year parole eligibility for second-degree murder.
A jury found him guilty of second-degree murder in September.
Ryle's lawyer had asked the jury to find him guilty of manslaughter, arguing that his intoxication at the time of the killing meant he couldn't form the intent to murder.
Court of Queen's Bench Justice Vic Toews said the jury's guilty verdict showed they rejected that argument.
"The murder of Mr. Chezick was unspeakably brutal, and motivated by petty and selfish financial concern. It was an evil act," Toews said.
Ryle broke into 42-year-old Chezick's home on Pritchard Avenue on July 20, 2015 looking for things to steal in order to get money for rent, according to an agreed statement of facts. Ryle picked up a knife in the kitchen after coming in through the window.
While searching for things to steal, he came across Chezick in his bedroom. Ryle attacked Chezick, stabbing him in the head, neck and torso. Ryle then made three trips from the house to his own home with stolen items, using a grocery cart to move them.
On his last trip to the house, Ryle lit a blanket covering Chezick's body on fire.
These aggravating factors, including "the brutality and seemingly gratuitous violence inflicted on an entirely innocent victim" and "the callous nature of Mr. Ryle's conduct following the murder" influenced Toews's decision to increase the period of parole ineligibility above the minimum 10 years.
Ryle sat staring at the floor in the prisoner's box while Toews read his decision.
'Nightmare' over: father
Harvey Chezick, Justin's father, delivered a victim impact statement in which he described the murder of his son as a "nightmare." After Ryle's sentencing, he said the whole family is relieved.
"It's a great thing it's over with. This is almost three years already and I think it's about time it's over," he said.
When asked about his feelings toward Ryle, he said: "With him, I guess his upbringing was quite rough and everything. And I think he was brought up in a way that this is expected, I guess."
The Crown had asked for a minimum parole ineligibility of 17 years, while Ryle's defence said parole ineligibility should not exceed 12 years.
Jurors were also asked for their sentencing recommendations — four made no recommendation, one recommended 12 years before parole eligibility, five recommended 15 years, one recommended 18 years and one recommended 20 years.
Toews explained that he took into consideration Ryle's personal circumstances, "including his underprivileged upbringing and his current family circumstances," and his age at the time of the offence. Toews also considered Ryle's Gladue rights, which outline special considerations for Indigenous offenders in sentencing.
Despite that, Toews said "there should be no substantive difference, if any, in this case between the sentence an Aboriginal and a non-Aboriginal offender should receive."
"But for the youth of Mr. Ryle and consideration of the Gladue factors, I would have ordered a period of parole ineligibility which would have exceeded the 15 years which I have imposed, and closer to the 17-year recommendation of the Crown."
Ryle has 30 days to appeal the sentence.
With files from Kelly Malone