Owen Sound courthouse. Scott Dunn/The Owen Sound Sun Times/Postmedia Network
Ralph Rudowski admitted on the first day of his second-degee murder trial that he caused Janice West‘s death and was ready to plead guilty to manslaughter, but maintained he didn’t intend to murder her.Defence lawyer Jill Gamble put those admissions on the record in front of a 12-member jury in the Superior Court of Justice in Owen Sound Monday.Rudowski, 62, of Wiarton, is charged with second-degree murder of Janice West between March 6 and March 7, 2018 in Wiarton. Rudowski has pleaded not guilty to the charge.Gamble told the jury Rudowski admits he caused West’s death by an unlawful act and caused the injuries which killed her. But he doesn’t admit to having the mental state required to commit murder.Though Rudowski was prepared to plead guilty to manslaughter, she said, the Crown is instead proceeding with the charge as laid of second-degree murder.Justice John R. Spoat advised the jury about the extra element required to convict Rudowski of second-degree murder. He said the Crown must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that either Rudowski meant to kill West or meant to cause West bodily harm that Rudowski knew was likely to kill West and was reckless whether she died or not.Rudowski sat silently and attentively in the prisoner’s box in the middle of the courtroom. He wore a grey T-shirt, his thinning brown hair brushed back over his receding hairline.Grey County Crown attorney Peter Leger in his opening address set out the circumstances he said witnesses and exhibits to be filed with the court would reveal. His summary is not evidence in the case.He said Rudowski and West were friends and next-door neighbours. She relied on him to bring water to flush her toilet because she had no running water in her “very modest” home, Leger said.In the afternoon before her death, they’d attended lunch at the Salvation Army in Wiarton together, took a cab the liquor store, then went home in the same cab.She lived at 101 Division St., he lived 10 or 20 metres away at 97 Division St. in Wiarton, addresses provided by the first witness in the trial.Leger said Rudowski came over at 7:30 that night with water to flush West’s toilet. While there, Bob Johnson, also referred to as “Uncle Bob,” spoke to both of them on the phone. He’ll testify West and Rudowski had been drinking alcohol, the Crown said. He’s believed to be the last person to speak with West before her death, besides Rudowski.West’s friend, Kim Springer, discovered West’s body, face up on the sofa in the living area of her home about 11 a.m. the next day. West was covered by a blanket, her forehead covered with a square pillow. She testify West had obvious facial injuries, Leger said.Leger said Rudowski admitted in a two-hour statement to police on March 11, 2018 that he caused West’s death, with “many explanations and rationalizations for doing it.”Leger said forensic pathologist Michael Shkrum did an autopsy on West.“Among the injuries, he’ll testify that Janice West was strangled, bones in her larynx, that’s the voice box, were broken. ”Leger said the doctor will testify West died by strangulation, which limited blood flow to her brain, while her rib and clavicle injuries made it harder to breath than it already was for West, who suffered from emphysema.“The Crown submits that the evidence of Dr. Shkrum will assist you greatly in determining whether Mr. Rudowski meant to kill Janice West.”Const. William (Tony) Martin, an Ontario Provincial Police forensic identification officer, testified the blanket covering West’s petite body was unwrinkled, as if she hadn’t moved after it was placed there.He said her arms were folded in front of her and suspended above her stomach, suggesting she was dead before being placed on the sofa. Video which had been edited to remove images of the victim, did show the jury a brief shot of her in this position.It also showed evidence of what looked like blood stains at the front door, inside and outside the house. The house smelled of cat urine and there was lots of cat feces found, Martin testified. But overall, her house was otherwise tidy, he said.The words “Help Me” were written in marker almost imperceptibly on the glass part of a screen door of West’s home, the significance of which was never revealed in the investigation, Martin testified.The trial resumes Tuesday at 10 a.m. in courtroom 201. Leger said with the defence admissions, the trial could conclude by week’s end. It had been scheduled to take two or three weeks.