Life has been a struggle for Toronto grandmother Pearl Holubowsky since her grandson was fatally stomped by a crack addict who recently moved to a halfway house.
She felt betrayed when a judge sentenced Nicholas Crowdis to just 10 years in 2009 and was shocked when that term was more than halved for jail time served before his conviction.
The widow’s gore rose once again last week.
A Corrections Service Canada (CSC) official’s announcement that Crowdis was getting "statutory release" left her stunned, "angrier than I was six years ago."
Unlike Michael James Serba, "who would be 31 this June 6," Holubowsky, 77, said Crowdis got another chance on a path to freedom at a Barrie, Ont., halfway house, starting last Thursday.
The decision to transfer him from a Kingston prison was made despite National Parole Board concerns that the remorseless killer might reoffend, CSC documents show.
The system was overly sympathetic, with a parole official and his lawyer citing a troubled life compared to the "very well-established young man" he killed, a frustrated Holubowsky said in her neat Toronto home.
Crowdis, then 24, smashed his victim’s head with a brick in a downtown Toronto walkway Nov. 25, 2006, then stomped Serba’s face, separating his jaw.
The killer claimed the victim posed a threat while trying to get up, Holubowsky said, who agonizingly asked "then why did he have a brick?"
Due to join a Boston financial firm three days later, her grandson was sucker-punched by Crowdis’ friend when Serba was confronted at a bank machine.
He later returned with pals from a nearby tavern celebration and was killed by Crowdis.
CSC documents sent to Crowdis and Holubowky disclosed the killer’s "moderate psychopathy," abuse of illegal drugs and booze since age nine, an adult conviction for violence similar to Serba’s attack and a "drug-induced psychosis" in 2009.
What most upset the grieving granny was his "somewhat limited remorse," and a "continued minimization of the gratuitous violence" accompanying Michael’s slaying.
The parole board report, with several sections obscured, concluded that because he poses a "potential to be a danger to others," though of low-risk, Crowdis needs "the monitoring, structure and support of a half-way house" instead of unsupervised release.
If a supervisor approves, the CSC told Holubowsky his criminal sentence will end Sept. 16, 2013 with a "warrant expiry."
When a jury found Crowdis guilty of manslaughter instead of second-degree murder, and his sentence was cut to four years — on top of three years of pre-trial custody — "I was so mad," she said.
The defence lawyer delayed the trial to get traditional two-for-one credit for the three years he spent in jail after his arrest, Holubowsky believes, adding the prosecutor’s "droning" two-hour final jury address lacked conviction.
Justice Christopher Speyer described the Etobicoke hockey player and dean’s list PhD. graduate as having superior talent and accomplishment," with strong leadership qualities.
He also predicted — correctly in Holubowky’s case — that Serba’s death would cast a pall on the family, "which will be difficult, if not impossible, to overcome."
Saying his son’s killer "got away with murder," James Serba dismissed his courtroom apology as self-serving but thanked the prosecutor and Toronto Police homicide Det.-Sgt. Ken Taylor for their efforts.
Always ordering graveside flowers for Michael’s birthday, Pearl Holubowsky hasn’t visited her grandson in the cemetery since his funeral, when two busloads of Vermont university schoolmates attended.
Despite back pain, she is regularly drawn to the dreaded walkway.
Still puzzling over why a stranger killed so easily, Holubowsky cannot forgive him or the system she believes will set Crowdis free too soon, in 19 months.
Though cherishing the love of Andrew Soba, in Calgary, and his sister, Ivanka, in Toronto, since their brother’s death "I lost everything, my health and my will to live," she said.
Glancing at photos of Michael as a boy and, too briefly, as a young man, Holubowsky whispered "I wish I went with him."