Guilty once again ... at what cost?

With the recent (and third, I might add) trial and subsequent conviction of Peter Wlasiuk finally behind me, I decided it was time to weigh-in with my own, personal feelings on the experience. Throughout the month-long ordeal – which found me spending the majority of my time at the Chenango County Courthouse, covering the trial – I avoided, at all costs, offering any kind of opinion, be it here in my weekly column, on my Evening Sun blog ... even on Twitter or Facebook.

What can I say? I tried my very best to remain as unbiased as possible in regards to Mr. Wlasiuk, originally accused of killing his wife, Patricia, in 2002. To make a long story short (as if you don’t know already), it was alleged at that time that Peter killed his wife at their Oxford home, loaded her body into the bed of his 1998 GMC pick-up truck, and drove said truck into Guilford Lake in an attempt to hide the crime (I only wrote that sentence 275 times over the past month). And as I said, this was his third trial, having successfully appealed his two previous convictions.

I hate to say it, but it doesn’t say much for our judicial system when a man who’s so obviously guilty gets ... not one ... but three trials for killing his wife. Because he is guilty; the jury got it right ... once again.

You see, I knew Peter – and Patricia – quite well back in 2002 when the whole deal went down.

I was 25 years old in April of 2002, employed by my father and his partner in all but name for Simplicity Carpet, our family business. At the time of Patricia’s murder, my father was still living on Pratt Road, in the house we had built over the past decade or so, less than six miles north of the Angel Inn, formerly known as The Pillars, in Guilford. In fact, The Pillars – and later the Angel Inn – was where me and dad would settle in for a couple of cold ones after work, shooting pool and listening to the jukebox. And I can’t tell you how many times I performed there between the years of 1991 (when I first began playing guitar) and 2002 (when Peter was arrested).

Probably well over 100, I would imagine.

Regardless, I was there when our good friend Kris Klugh sold The Pillars to Pete. I was there when he replaced the actual bar and changed the name to the Angel Inn. And I was there in the days after he was charged with murdering his wife.

I’ll never forget, as long as I live, the look on my father’s face as we drank coffee in our show room on that Tuesday morning, April 2, 2002. We were getting ready for another day of back-breaking carpet installation (not an easy trade by any means, trust me) and preparing for the day ahead when the phone rang. My father, may he rest in peace, answered it, listened with a disbelieving look on his face, turned to me and said, “Oh my God, he finally killed her.”

Believe it or not, I immediately knew who he meant. Everyone knew (or at least suspected) when they heard the news. Why? Because it was obvious from happenings at the Angel Inn that Peter and Patricia weren’t happy; that Peter was an abusive, violent man; and that – sooner or later – something was going to snap.

It’s that simple.

Fast forward ten years and it’s all come full circle for me. Covering the court beat for our hometown daily is never dull (and that’s putting it mildly) but a murder trial – any murder trial – is ... well, about as interesting and/or disturbing as it gets. I sat through every minute (just about) of the Wlasiuk trial and I was appalled at his defense team’s efforts to discredit our local law enforcement, the Chenango County District Attorney’s Office and even this newspaper.

To (again) make a long story short, when I asked the court’s permission to photograph the proceedings, Wlasiuk’s lawyer tried to convince the judge that “poor Peter’s” name had already been “dragged through the mud” for more than a decade, and who was I to add to his pain?

I remember sitting there thinking to myself, “You have got to be kidding me, right?”

Actually, I remember sitting through the trial itself, not to mention the deliberations, thinking much the same thing. Let me put it this way: when you swerve to miss a deer (which I have done), you leave skid marks on the road; burdocks, in fact, do not grow underwater; if your wife and/or significant other is stranded in a freezing lake, one does not go running for help – especially at 12:30 a.m. when most people are asleep – one dives right back into the water and tries to save his wife and/or significant other; and, for God’s sake, nobody comes out of a 40 degree lake shortly after midnight in early April without having at least a mild case of hypothermia.

And, before I move on, here’s another little tidbit for you ... years ago, I rolled my father’s Grand Am ... five or six times. My injuries? A small cut on my left hand and some minor bruises. Patricia Wlasiuk? Patricia looked as if someone had beaten her severely; she looked like – I would imagine – any victim of domestic violence.

Which is exactly what she was ... a victim.

Thirty-six jurors, hailing from all parts of Chenango County, have now found Mr. Wlasiuk guilty of second degree murder. Our community as a whole has spoken ... again ... and again we will have to pay for it. And while I have no idea what the actual financial toll is after three trials (a story for another day, don’t worry), I can only imagine the emotional toll this has had on Patricia’s family over the past decade.

And Peter? Well, I’m sure Mr. Wlasiuk will continue to do what he’s done for ten years now; he will hit the books once again, looking for a loophole – any loophole – that will grant him another trial.

It’s time for this madness to stop. To commit such a heinous crime and have the audacity to shove what’s supposed to be the best judicial system on the planet down our collective throat is arrogant at best, downright vile at the worst. We don’t deserve it, Patricia’s family doesn’t deserve it and Patricia certainly didn’t deserve it.

As for another chance, he doesn’t deserve it.

And Patricia, it’s my hope – and the hope of so many others – that now, finally, you can rest in peace. May God be with you.

Follow me on Twitter ... @evesunbrian

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