5 min

UPDATE: Jury deliberates Dufferin murder

Ylirussi to spend at least 10 years behind bars

Feb 7, 6:30pm

The 32-year-old hustler convicted of killing a 65-year-old former Dufferin Pub patron will spend at least the next 10 years in prison before being eligible for parole.

Aaron Juhani Yliruusi was convicted of murdering Bill Merchant by a jury on Jan 31, and sentenced by BC Supreme Court Justice Barbara Fisher on Feb 4.

Merchant died after being stabbed once by Yliruusi on Jan 11, 2009 in what the judge described as a robbery gone wrong.

The court heard Merchant received a 22-centimetre wound from a 19-centimetre knife which slashed his aorta, the body’s main artery.

“The knife penetrated Mr Merchant’s left torso,” Fisher ruled. “He uttered words to the effect, ‘You stabbed me,’ and fell to the ground.”

The body of the five-foot-six, 245-pound Merchant was found in his Richards St suite.

The court heard Merchant was a drug dealer who liked his guys young.

“Mr Merchant supplied Ylirussi with drugs in exchange for sexual favours,” Fisher found. “Yliruusi had been exploited for years.”

Yliruusi admitted in court to stabbing Merchant but the defence argued the jury should convict him of the lesser charge of manslaughter, saying he didn’t mean to kill Merchant.

The defence had asked for 10 years before parole eligibility. The Crown asked for 12 years.

The court heard at trial that Ylirussi had gone to Merchant’s apartment with the intention of robbing him. The jury was told Ylirussi believed there were several ounces of cocaine in Merchant’s safe.

Fisher found Ylirussi went to the suite on the pretext of buying drugs but then threatened Merchant with the knife. Though she referred to the robbery plan as “very clumsy and foolish,” she found it was “was not a vicious killing.”

She noted Yliruusi has accepted responsibility for his crime and is remorseful.

Jan 31, 1:30pm

A BC Supreme Court jury has convicted Aaron Juhani Ylirussi of second-degree murder in the 2009 slaying of 65-year-old Bill Merchant.

The jury returned with the verdict on Jan 31 after three days of deliberations.

Court will reconvene on Feb 3 to begin sentencing proceedings.

Ylirussi faces a minimum of 10 years in prison before being eligible for parole.

Jan 28

That Aaron Juhani Ylirussi killed Bill Merchant is not in question.

The question now facing a BC Supreme Court jury is whether Ylirussi meant to kill him when he stabbed him with a 10-inch knife in 2009. The jury began deliberating on Jan 28.

Ylirussi, 32, is on trial for the death of 65-year-old drug dealer and former Dufferin Pub regular Bill Merchant, the court heard on Jan 27.

The body of the five-foot-six, 245-pound Merchant was found on the evening of Jan 11, 2009, in his suite in the 900 block of Richards St.

The court heard that Merchant was a drug dealer who liked his guys young.

The court also heard that Ylirussi had gone to Merchant’s apartment with the intention of robbing him. Ylirussi believed there were several ounces of cocaine in Merchant’s safe.

Crown prosecutor Brendan McCabe said Ylirussi clearly intended to rob Merchant, which shows he had the clarity of mind to plan a robbery, despite the drugs and alcohol he’d consumed. That clarity of mind meant he was also capable of forming the intention to kill or seriously wound Merchant, knowing that such a wound could possibly kill, McCabe argued.

When the robbery didn’t unfold as planned, McCabe told the four-woman, eight-man jury, Ylirussi swung at Merchant with a 10-inch knife.

McCabe presented medical evidence that showed the 19.5 cm blade had penetrated 21-22 cm into Merchant, severing his aorta, the body’s main artery.

Ylirussi rifled through Merchant’s pockets as blood began to pool around the man he had called his friend before heading to Victory Square, where he smoked a significant amount of crack cocaine, McCabe said.

Defence lawyer Jim Heller pointed out that Ylirussi only stabbed Merchant once and from the side, not the front, as might be more expected with an intentional stabbing. “I’m conceding Mr Ylirussi is guilty of manslaughter but not murder,” Heller said. “Did he have the knowledge… that he would likely cause the death of Mr Merchant? There’s no way Crown can prove or disprove that beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Heller said the death occurred in the course of a robbery and that his client was remorseful. “Things were so fast, so fleeting that you can’t say he [Ylirussi] had the foresight to know he was likely to kill him,” he said.

“This is a guilt-carrying homicide… but it is not murder,” Heller added.

The court heard Ylirussi had a history of homosexual liaisons, but Heller asked the jury to put aside any anti-gay sentiments they might have. “Mr Ylirussi gave evidence he himself felt disgusted by some of the acts he underwent with Bill,” Heller said.

McCabe told the jury Ylirussi was a long-term addict who had a tolerance of drugs like morphine.

McCabe suggested the jury disregard Ylirussi’s claims that he had taken a lot of Tylenol 3 with alcohol and that had clouded his decision-making process. “He was not intoxicated to the point where he could not see the likely consequences of his actions,” McCabe said. “He intended to kill Mr Merchant or at the very least intended to cause him bodily harm.

“A drunken intent is still an intent,” McCabe added. “Common sense dictates you know you’re likely to cause someone’s death if you thrust a knife in that far,” he said.

“Mr Ylirussi admitted he was the person who inflicted the fatal stab wound on Mr Merchant,” McCabe continued. “He’s conceded he’s guilty of manslaughter.” However, McCabe argued, it is now up to the jury to determine whether Ylirussi meant to kill Merchant. If so, they should convict him of murder, not manslaughter.

Ylirussi was arrested by Comox Valley RCMP in the days after the death.

One source who was intimate with the comings and goings at the Dufferin says he isn’t surprised Merchant was killed, given his lifestyle. The source told Xtra at the time of the death that Merchant was a known drug dealer in the north Yaletown area who liked his guys young.

“He was hustling drugs, and the kids got them free or they went out and hustled to pay for them,” the source said on condition of anonymity. He compared Merchant to the streetwise boy-gang leader Fagin from Charles Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist.

“He was what I would consider to be the picture of a lecherous old man,” the source said. “He was basically a street kingpin kind of guy.”

A high school friend of Ylirussi’s attended the trial. Asking that her name not be used, she said Ylirussi’s drugs of choice were crack and crystal meth.

“He’s got a great personality, he loves to play guitar, he loves his kid, he loves his family.”

“He’s everything that drugs have taken away from us,” she said. “He’s just a really decent guy who made some wrong choices.”

She said Ylirussi’s daughter is about 10 or 11. “He’s a great dad,” she said.

She, too, has a low opinion of Merchant. “The guy was a goof,” she told Xtra. “He took advantage of Aaron, lured him in, was offering him drugs.”