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Penticton man found guilty of murder could be up for parole in five years

A Penticton man who admitted to murdering an 85-year-old woman in 2006 could be up for parole in five years.

Cory Wolf Swite, 26, was initially convicted of first degree murder for smothering and then having sex with an elderly Penticton woman in March 2009, but that conviction was set aside by the court of appeal earlier this year due to concerns with the jury.

A retrial got underway in Kelowna this month, but in a surprise twist Swite pleaded guilty to the lesser offence of second degree murder.

While both convictions carry a minimum sentence of 25 years, parole eligibility with the lesser charge is more flexible.

Crown counsel Rob Bruneau asked the judge for a 15 year minimum sentence, while defence lawyer Kevin McCullough suggested 10 years.  Swite was arrested for the crime in 2007, and the years he's spent in prison would be used against that total, meaning there's a possibility for  parole in 2017.

McCullough suggested the lesser sentence would be more fitting, when the Gladue decision was accounted for.

The Gladue decision states: "All available sanctions other than imprisonment that are reasonable in the circumstances should be considered for all offenders, with particular attention to the circumstances of aboriginal offenders."

And Swite's particular circumstances, said McCullough, were particularly egregious.

Not only was he an alcoholic with the mental acuity of a child when he committed the crime, Swite also was imbedded in a violent community with few resources.

Swite, he told the judge, was a member of the Penticton Indian Band and in the months leading to the crime, he had not only lost his mother to her alcoholism, he was witness to one of the city's most violent crimes.

During a 2004 bush party, his cousin Dustin Paul killed three men and wounded two others, many of whom were Swite's family.

Paul, said McCullough, actually shot fatal blasts from his gun from a vantage point behind Swite, deafening him in one ear and putting him front and centre for the grisly crime.

None of these events placed Swite in good stead moving forward, it was argued in court Tuesday, and that should be weighed into sentencing, regardless of the severity of the crime.

According to previous court records, Swite broke in to Olive Hill's apartment to steal cigarettes and money, but when she awoke he smothered her with a pillow and had sex with her after she stopped breathing.

Swite will be sentenced Friday.

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