Daniel Ruff turned toward the children of the man he killed two years earlier and apologized for what he called a “senseless tragedy.”
A jury found Ruff guilty of second degree murder for the June 14, 2015 death of his roommate Warren Welters and for that he was sentenced to life in prison with eligibility for parole in 10 years.
“I’m just so, so sorry for this senseless tragedy that should never have happened,” Ruff said.
“I’m sorry girls.”
Ashley Sargent was Welters’s eldest daughter, and spoke about what it was like to try and move forward when caught in the wake of such a violent end to a loved one.
“To say the past two years and four months have been difficult is an understatement of epic proportions,” Sargent told the court.
“As a child I remember thinking that my dad was the strongest man in the world, as many little girls do. The thought of him being bashed in the head while he was in a vulnerable state, sleeping, has been very difficult.”
She told the court that it had also been difficult to have her father cast in such a negative light over the course of the trial and that there was more to Welters than just his drinking.
“He was funny, he was charismatic, he could be incredibly thoughtful and he had a way of connecting with people,” she said. “He was a gardener and skilled carpenter. He had ambitions and goals and things were starting to improve a little.”
Sargent said she had a complicated relationship with her dad, but always hoped it would get easier. That hope was taken away with his murder and she’s found herself dealing with nagging doubts and anxiety.
“What if I had been a better daughter? What if I tried harder? What if I had been less firm in setting my boundaries? Would it have made any difference?” she said. “Now I will never know. On June. 14, 2015 that opportunity was taken away from me forever.”
Welters’s youngest daughter Melissa Wellwood also remembered her father for his kindness, love of gardening and knack for making and fixing things.
And she also shared that his loss is something she struggles to get over every day.
“No words can conjure up of the devastation that remain with me every day,” she told the court.
She’s been diagnosed with PTSD and insomnia due to what happened to her father.
And the portrayal of the man who drove her to childhood activities was hurtful to her as well.
“He was far from perfect, he suffered from alcoholism … but there was more to him than the picture painted in this trial. On most good days he would do anything to do anyone. He had a beautiful heart and a great sense of humour.”
BC Supreme Court Justice Alison Beames said, in sentencing, that the crime against his one time friend and roommate was “brutal.”
ORIGINAL 4:25 p.m. OCT. 24, 2017
A Kelowna man was found guilty Tuesday in the second degree murder of his roommate.
The jury, which rendered its decision after a full day of deliberations, found that Daniel Ruff intentionally delivered four fatal blows to the back of Warren Welters head with a hammer June, 14, 2015 while he was in the Bernard Avenue home they shared.
Defence counsel Grant Gray unsuccessfully argued that there was no motive for Ruff to kill his roommate other than the conflict Ruff described as a “fight for his life.” It was simply, Gray said, a case of self defense.
Crown counsel Colin Forsyth, however, made the case for a second degree murder conviction, noting that the motive was simply that Ruff was “pissed off” with his roommate.
Ruff discussed the killing with friends in the aftermath, and Forsyth pointed out that one of those friends testified that he’d said he was pissed off by Welters. Forsyth also said that Ruff told another friend that the two had fought before, and if it happened again he’d kill Welters — testimony that was also rendered in court.
The two men had an acrimonious relationship, that had devolved into physical violence before the fatal incident.
Welters had twice changed the locks to the home in an attempt to keep Ruff out and Ruff had once cut the cords to his own computer to stop Welters from using it.
What Forsyth really focused on in closing submissions, however, was the scene of their final altercation.
Welters was found face down on his bed with four fatal hammer blows to his head. Blood spatter and blood pooling indicate that Welters was prone in his bed when he was struck in the head. He also had a blood alcohol level of 250 mg/dL, which Forsyth said would be incapacitating for even a seasoned drinker.
That, he said, doesn’t align well with Ruff’s story that he’d been in the hallway and jumped by Welters during a “violent and dynamic struggle.”
He also pointed out that Ruff said he called 911, pursuing the faint hope that Welters was alive.
That was, Forsyth said, a lie and the evidence is in the recording of the call. In a recording played to the jury, the 911 operator repeatedly asked Ruff to check and see if Welters is alive and he responds each time by saying “he’s dead.”
In the aftermath of the killing Ruff has said he was in shock, and that’s why he didn’t come clean right away. He wanted to clear his head and sober up.
Forsyth said that he had the presence of mind to clean himself up and put the hammer back in the toolbox from which it was originally removed.