Brian Panebianco was shaking and unsteady on his feet on Tuesday evening, Jan. 21, as a 12-person jury found him not guilty in connection to the death of Cory Jarock.
Members of the jury, made up of Cranbrook, Kimberley and area residents, were also visibly upset as the foreperson announced the verdict.
One by one, the court clerk read the charges, and each time, the jury foreperson pronounced Panebianco not guilty. Manslaughter, criminal negligence causing death, robbery and assault causing bodily harm – not guilty four times.
Instead, after seven hours of secret deliberations, the jury found Panebianco, 25, guilty of two lesser charges: theft under $5,000 for taking money out of Jarock’s pocket, and common assault for hitting Jarock in the head as he evicted him from an Invermere house party on April 2, 2012.
Each member of the jury was asked to stand to show their unanimous support for the verdict, and then Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Ball excused the jury and thanked them for their service.
“I’ve watched as you’ve been attentive, taking your task very seriously,” Justice Ball told the jury. “I must say, I felt encouraged when we first called you as so few people in the array had any objection to becoming jurors. In fact, many seemed eager to be able to do it.
“I really appreciate on behalf of the people of Canada and the people of this community what you have done. I simply admire the work you have done. It’s very difficult. You should be thanked for that.”
Crown prosecutor Lynal Doerksen and Panebianco’s lawyer Greg Sawchuk took only a few minutes to agree on a sentence for Panebianco on the lesser charges: a six-month sentence. However, Panebianco spent that long in custody awaiting a bail hearing on these charges in 2012, so he was free to leave the Cranbrook courthouse Tuesday night.
“Crown and defense are in agreement that the time he has served in custody, which is six months, will be sufficient for the circumstances of this case,” said Justice Ball.
Panebianco was ordered to provide a DNA sample at the Columbia Valley RCMP detachment within a week. He will also pay a $200 victim fine surcharge within the next six months.
After the decision, Sawchuk spoke to the Townsman about his client.
“Mr. Panebianco’s present thoughts are sorrow for Mr. Jarock’s family at the death of their son,” he said.
Jarock’s mother was present in the courtroom throughout the trial but declined to comment after the verdict.
Prosecutor Lynal Doerksen said he is not shocked by the not guilty finding.
“I’m not surprised. It’s been a difficult case and the facts weren’t easy,” he told the Townsman.
Doerksen said the credibility of the three witnesses who were present the night of April 2 would certainly have been an issue for the jury.
“It would have to have been. That was one of the big issues for the Crown,” he said.
In this case, the Crown may have grounds to appeal the verdict, Doerksen explained.
“The Crown would have an option to appeal. But it’s not likely. We will do a review with my supervisors as soon as possible.
“I’m happy all the evidence got out,” he concluded.
During the six-day trial, the jury heard from a pathologist who found that Cory Jarock died of hypothermia on the night of April 2 to 3, 2012, as he lay on the driveway of his friend Caitlin Jensen’s house after being kicked out of a house party the night before. A toxicologist estimated that Jarock’s blood alcohol concentration would have been between 330 and 380 mg when he left the party.
Caitlin Jensen, Emma Cain, Brian Panebianco and Chase Stadnyk were gathered at Jensen’s home on April 2, 2012, the four testified, when Jensen invited Cory Jarock to join them. He arrived at about 10:30 p.m. with a case of 15 beer, pizza and wings. The group shared the beer and then Jensen brought out a bottle of vodka, which they also shared. Cain and Jarock drank the most; Jensen and Panebianco a little; Stadnyk did not drink at all and left at about 1 p.m., according to the testimony.
Sometime after that, the young women, 18 and 19 at the time, noticed that Jarock was extremely drunk and began to ask him to leave. Panebianco said the women asked for his help when Jarock refused to leave, began to insult the girls and grabbed Cain’s backside.
Panebianco testified that he thought Jarock was going to fight him, so he struck the side of Jarock’s head with his forearm, grabbed the man in a fireman’s hold under the arms, and carried him out the front door, throwing his jacket and shoes out after him. Panebianco later admitted taking money from Jarock’s coat pocket and giving some of it to Jensen to pay her for the vodka.
Panebianco left the party 30 minutes later, poking Jarock with a stick on the way past as the man lay on the driveway. Cain left another 15 minutes later, and testified that Jarock sat up and called out to her as she walked past.
Jensen testified that she then went to bed, expecting Jarock to walk home. The next morning when she woke up, Jarock was still lying on the driveway. She called friends to ask what she should do, but in the end didn’t take any action.
At about lunchtime, a local realtor drove past the home and saw Jarock’s body. He stopped and called 911. A paramedic arrived and found Jarock was deceased.
Cory Jarock, 31, was a painter living in Invermere.