Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Young killer gets parole

'Five months is not enough for a life!' victim's anguished father declares

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DAUPHIN -- A young killer was headed home for the holidays yesterday after serving only five months for the beating death of a junior hockey player.

Tyler Cascisa, 22, broke into tears when he was paroled from his manslaughter sentence of two years less a day, which he began serving in June.

Cascisa -- who kicked and beat Anthony McLaughlin, 20, to death during a bar fight at the Pembina Hotel in May 2000 -- clung to his weeping mother and hugged his father when the parole official announced his ruling.

Cascisa's brother clapped, yelled "yes!" and pumped his fist in the air in celebration.

But the elation was a strong contrast to the anger of the victim's father, Jack McLaughlin, who said: "Five months is not enough for a life!"

The Winnipeg Free Press was granted observer status for the National Parole Board hearing, which took place in a Dauphin courtroom.

It was a rare public glimpse into the process in which inmates' crimes and personalities are weighed against their risk to reoffend and their perceived level of rehabilitation.

Cascisa was eligible to apply for parole after serving one-sixth of his sentence. At the end of this month, he would have served one-quarter.

McLaughlin sat stonefaced as the decision was read and left the courtroom briskly afterwards. He called the ruling "B.S."

"Our justice system is all for the offender,'' he said before leaving the courthouse with his wife, Donna. "What kind of message is being sent here? You can kill someone and be out in five months?"

Yesterday, a weeping Cascisa told the parole board his version of what happened on May 26, 2000, when Anthony McLaughlin was beaten, stripped of his pants and left dying behind the Pancake House restaurant on Pembina Highway.

Throughout the hearing, the Cascisas and the McLaughlins sat nearly facing one another. At previous court hearings related to the case, family members have shouted at each other in anger; yesterday, the courtroom was silent, but tense.

The Cascisas regularly broke down in tears during the proceedings when listening to their son describe the incident. The McLaughlin family sat in the jury box, at times clearly struggling to maintain their composure.

Dressed in a blue suit and sporting short-cropped hair, Cascisa explained that he and McLaughlin had tangled the New Year's Eve before the incident.

"I guess there was a grudge I wasn't aware of,'' he said.

Cascisa said he was at the Pembina Hotel bar the night of the beating when he was approached by McLaughlin, who challenged him to a fight. Not wanting to be embarrassed in front of his friends, Cascisa agreed to go outside with McLaughlin.

McLaughlin, a hockey player with the Fort Garry-Fort Rouge Twins of the Manitoba Major Junior Hockey League, was celebrating his team's recent championship victory with friends that night.

The two men wrestled outside the bar before a bouncer told them to move away from the building.

On their way to the back of the restaurant to continue the fight, Cascisa said he tried to talk McLaughlin out of it.

But McLaughlin wanted to continue, said Cascisa. They fought again, and this time Cascisa connected with a punch that sent McLaughlin to the ground, his head smashing on the cement.

But Cascisa maintained he was so drunk and overwhelmed by the fight that he doesn't remember delivering the vicious kicks that left a boot print on McLaughlin's face and likely caused his death.

Cascisa was arrested the next day at his brother's wedding and charged with second-degree murder. He later pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter.

If an offender is sentenced to more than two years and serves the time in a federal penitentiary, parole is determined by a three-person panel of National Parole Board officials.

Because Cascisa was sentenced to less than two years and was incarcerated in a provincial jail, his case was determined by a lone parole official.

During the two-hour hearing, Cascisa was grilled by the official, who asked the young killer to explain the circumstances of the assault, whether he has a drinking problem and whether he was remorseful.

The official also questioned him on whether he will have the ability to control his anger in the future.

When asked how he feels now about the incident, Cascisa -- who has a previous conviction for another assault at a city bar and was on probation at the time of the killing -- said he is filled with regret.

"I can't explain why I fought him. I have no excuse,'' he said. "I've taken a family member away from a family. I've just ruined so many people."

Cascisa's father, Sam, said his son will forever have to live with the guilt of what he's done.

McLaughlin pleaded with the parole board to keep Anthony's killer behind bars. He said his son's death has destroyed his family. He said he is unable to sleep or enjoy life and is constantly haunted by the memory of his son's beaten and swollen face.

"I keep seeing this horrible image,'' he said, wiping away a tear. "It was a useless act of violence -- the worst nightmare that can beset a family."

McLaughlin has been a vocal critic of the justice system since Cascisa pleaded guilty to the reduced charge of manslaughter and was sentenced.

He has organized a citizens' group called People for Justice, which held a rally at the Manitoba Legislative Building this summer advocating stricter punishment for offenders.

McLaughlin said he will continue his crusade, even though his son's killer is out of jail.

"I have to try and find something good from this,'' he said.

In making his ruling, the parole board official noted Cascisa has strong family support and the promise of employment upon release.

Cascisa, who served much of his sentence at the minimum-security jail in Dauphin, will initially live at a halfway house in Winnipeg, working his way up to overnight visits at home.

While on parole, he must attend counselling, abstain from drinking or drugs, stay out of bars, lounges and socials and have no contact with the McLaughlin family. If he abides by the conditions, Cascisa will be granted full parole next October.

leah.janzen@freepress.mb.ca

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 19, 2001 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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