May 25, 2019

Teen who killed family granted unescorted temporary absence from prison

VICTORIA – A British Columbia man who was 15 when he murdered four people, including his parents, will be allowed an unescorted temporary absence from prison.

James Ruscitti is serving a life sentence for the 1996 slayings of Rocco and Marilyn Ruscitti, his brother’s 17-year-old girlfriend and a boarder who lived in their home near 100 Mile House, 500 kilometres northeast of Vancouver.

In a written decision released Wednesday, the National Parole Board granted Ruscitti’s request for a 60-day absence to attend a residential substance abuse treatment facility on Vancouver Island.

Now 33, the parole board members noted that Ruscitti is considered a moderate to high risk for violent reoffending but found he has made progress in his rehabilitation.

“You have now voiced remorse for your crimes,” the decision said.

“You apologized to the victims and said you regret your crimes. This appears to be genuine.”

The unescorted absence is the first step in what parole board members called a “very gradual” reintegration into society.

As a youth at the time of the crime, Ruscitti has been eligible for parole since 2004.

Ruscitti’s explanation for the murders has changed over time, the decision noted.

In the “honest” version given to board members at the parole hearing this month, Ruscitti said he was entrenched in a drug culture by age 15.

“There were concerns of your abusing and torturing animals, encountering disciplinary problems in school, and using drugs from an early age,” the decision said.

Though he sold drugs and used marijuana, cocaine and LSD at the time of his crime, Ruscitti was “sober and enraged” when he and a 14-year-old accomplice shot the victims at point-blank range on June 22, 1996.

Living on his own, dealing drugs, Ruscitti returned home one day to find his residence had been searched. He found out his father and the boarder, Dennis O’Hara, were responsible.

“Trying to impress your criminal associates,” he planned revenge, the board members said.

After the murders, Ruscitti left his two-month-old niece in a room with her dead mother, Christine Clarke, his brother’s girlfriend.

“You did not give any thought to killing the infant but you did very little to make efforts to ensure the child would be rescued,” the decision said.

The baby was found two days later so dehydrated doctors felt she was within hours of death.

Ruscitti shot all four victims. Chad Bucknell also shot O’Hara.

“You took full responsibility for the violence and explained you were a thrill seeker trying to be a ‘gangster’ and had major anger issues against three of your four victims,” the board members said.

Ruscitti, who was adopted, had two sisters and an older brother. A previous board decision said he has undergone offender-victim mediation with one sibling, who supports his release.

But the latest decision said the victims’ family members want no contact with him and one of the conditions of his unescorted absence is that he make no attempt to get in touch.

Bucknell was granted full parole three years ago.

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Teen who killed family granted unescorted temporary absence from prison