Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Vicious beating in 2008 led to man's death: wife

Attacker can't face upgraded charges under law

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The autopsy report shows he died on Jan. 11, 2013 of pneumonia.

But family and friends of Ronald Dereski say the fate of the 49-year-old Winnipeg man was sealed on June 20, 2008 -- the day an intoxicated stranger attacked him, inflicting permanent, life-altering injuries from which he never recovered.

Matthew Sheppard, 26, pleaded guilty in 2010 to aggravated assault and was given a 12-year prison sentence. Under federal law, Sheppard can't be tried again on upgraded charges such as manslaughter or murder even if medical evidence were to prove a link to the victim's death.

"I'm mad. He took a life. He made him suffer," the victim's common-law wife, Judy Pimentel, told the Free Press Friday.

She said doctors have told the family there is "no doubt" Dereski's death is linked to the violent attack that left him in a wheelchair, requiring around-the-clock care.

"Despite a determined battle, Ron succumbed to injuries sustained in a violent attack on June 20, 2008," his obituary reads.

Pimentel said she knew the day would come when she'd receive the type of call she got early last month, informing her Dereski had taken "a turn for the worse."

He had a heart attack in hospital and his kidneys began shutting down, requiring dialysis. Eventually the infection set in and ended his life.

"He fought so hard to live. But these were very hard years," Pimentel said through tears.

Besides being in a motorized wheelchair, Dereski also dealt with constant headaches, pain and memory loss.

Dereski was attacked by Sheppard while living at an Ellice Avenue apartment block. He came out of his suite after hearing a man and woman arguing in the hallway. That's when Sheppard punched him, knocked him to the floor and began kicking and stomping him.

Sheppard continued the assault despite pleas from his girlfriend to stop. At one point, he told Dereski, "I can't believe you're still alive," said Pimentel.

Dereski was listed in critical condition and spent more than a year in hospital following the attack.

Dereski gave a powerful victim impact statement at Sheppard's sentencing, telling the accused how he will never be able to walk again because of him.

Sheppard apologized to Dereski in court, blaming his actions on a drug and alcohol addiction.

Dereski was born in Wawa, Ont., but moved to Pinawa at a young age.

He worked at Motor Coach Industries for several years but eventually went on disability because of arthritis. He needed a cane to get around.

"Despite his progressive disabilities, Ron loved life and maintained a positive attitude that was truly inspirational," his obituary reads.

In lieu of flowers, family asked for donations to be made in Dereski's name to the Canadian Paraplegic Association.

www.mikeoncrime.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 23, 2013 A5

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