David Ryan pleads guilty to manslaughter

David Ryan has pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the 2005 death of Richard Brace, with the court accepting Ryan had been too drunk to intend to kill anyone.
David Ryan appears in Supreme Court in St. John's with his lawyer Bob Buckingham. (CBC )

David Ryan, 54, has pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the 2005 death of Richard Brace, ending a court saga that started when a marathon drinking party at a Carbonear house took a violent turn. 

Ryan made the plea Thursday at Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador in downtown St. John's. 

In a victim impact statement, Brace's mother, Carolyn Sooley, expressed her sadness at the loss of her son.

"Our hearts have been broken beyond repair," Sooley wrote, "His life was taken in such a horrendous way."

"Visiting the cemetery is not the same as sitting down and having a brother and sister chat," Patricia Whiteway, Brace's sister, said.

The Crown and defence have agreed that time served — which in this case is six years and eight months — would be an appropriate sentence. 

Ryan had been formerly convicted of second-degree murder in the beating death of Brace, who succumbed to injuries he sustained during a brutal assault at Ryan's Carbonear home. However, the verdict, which triggered a 16-year sentence with no chance of parole, was overturned on appeal in 2012.

Although a new trial had been ordered, Ryan has instead pleaded guilty to the lesser charge. 

Court had been told that Ryan had been drinking for two days before a fight broke out at the home he was renting on Canada Day in 2005. 

The Crown has agreed that Ryan had been so drunk that he could not have formed the intent to murder Brace. 

Represented himself in first trial

Ryan insisted on representing himself during his first trial. The Supreme Court of Appeal ordered a new trial in large part because of that, noting that Ryan had a Grade 7 education and "could not properly conduct his own defence." 

Two other people have already been convicted in the case. Ashley Wheadon, Brace's girlfriend, was sentenced to house arrest after pleading guilty to manslaughter.

A man, who was a juvenile at the time and thus cannot be identified, was sentenced to three years on a manslaughter charge.

Ryan had earlier insisted that he was innocent of any crime. "I didn't touch the man," he said in 2007, as he was led away from a sentencing decision.