Ruffolo verdict due Nov. 18 as final witness testifies

The judgment on whether Ruby Ann Ruffolo is guilty or innocent of the first-degree murder of her husband, John, will be delivered Nov. 18.

Justice Mary Humphries was set to release her 150-page judgment Wednesday, but accepted an application by the defence to reopen the case to hear new evidence. At the conclusion of the two-day proceedings Thursday, Humphries said she would have to spend some time thinking about the evidence and fitting it in with her decision.

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Earlier, Humphries held an in-camera session to deal with a witness who had come forward with new information, but was afraid to testify for fear he would be killed or injured.

Humphries concluded there was a real and substantial risk to the witness for his past involvement in the drug trade.

She imposed a publication ban on his name, requiring the media to identify him as Mr. X. The identity of a drug dealer's name is also protected and subject to a publication ban. He was referred to as Mr. Y.

Mr. X testified that this summer he saw a photograph of John Ruffolo and read an article in the Times Colonist saying he'd died of a heroin overdose and someone else was getting his drugs.

"But it never said John Ruffolo was not involved in the drug trade," Mr. X said, laughing. "It basically said, he was snow-white, a fine upstanding community member."

Mr. X testified that the person in the photograph was the same man who bought heroin from Mr. Y in the fall of 2000. Mr. X testified that he was driving a pickup for Mr. Y in Rock Bay that night.

"Why did he stick out in your mind?" asked defence lawyer David Lyon.

"He came up to the truck. He was aggressive, threatening. Eyes wide open and yelling right at Y. Right away that was trouble," Mr. X replied.

He recalled that the man he believes was John Ruffolo told Mr. Y the heroin had better be good and he wanted the same deal as the prostitutes got.

"After we left I asked him, 'Why did you take that from him? Why didn't you get out of here?' And Y said 'That guy's a pig. He's the man. He's a guard at the jail and if I don't sell to him I'm going to get thrown in the hole or isolation if I go back.'

"I was shocked. It was like a judge or some other authority figure buying heroin off him."

Mr. X testified he saw the same person again in the early summer of 2001 on John Street in Rock Bay. This time the man stood 10 to 15 metres away.

During cross-examination, Crown prosecutor Scott Van Alstine asked Mr. X how he could be sure that the man involved in a

45-second drug transaction 10 years ago was the same person he saw in a photograph in the newspaper.

"In fairness, you could be mistaken," suggested Van Alstine.

"Oh yes, that's definitely possible," Mr. X replied.

Admissions of fact, signed by the defence, were read into the court record by prosecutor Clare Jennings. These include information that the heroin dealer Mr. Y was in custody at the Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre from July 7, 2000 to March 27, 2001 — which is during the time that Mr. X said John Ruffolo bought heroin from Mr. Y.

Lyon agreed the witness was uncertain about dates, but argued that Mr. X's evidence was compelling.

"He came forward at great personal risk to support someone who means absolutely nothing to him," said Lyon.

ldickson@timescolonist.com

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