Tonawanda News — It was North Tonawanda’s first homicide in nearly a decade — a brutal, unflinching act that left city residents astounded when Heather M. Rylowicz, 34, was found Nov. 21 bludgeoned to death inside her Lincoln Avenue home, a quiet enclave just around the corner from the police department.
A suspect was soon taken into custody after an area-wide search first turned up Rylowicz’s missing Ford Taurus in Buffalo, a day after she was discovered with her throat slit and her head caved in from the weight of a sledgehammer. Weeks of piled-up mail and her unattended dog led concerned neighbors to call the police.
Brian C. Lowry, 32, a Michigan native described by the authorities as a wanderer with a drug addiction and a criminal history, will now serve 15 years to life in prison for the incident, after a plea deal led to guilty verdicts on a 10-count indictment including second-degree murder. A break-up after a short-lived relationship with Rylowicz was apparently the motivation for her violent demise.
Her family members said the sentence, however, brought little closure to their grief, as they gathered Thursday inside a Niagara County Courtroom, often sobbing, where they heard the emotional recollections of her father, Frank Rylowicz, about his daughter, her life and her killer.
Mr. Rylowicz recalled her fondness for competitive diving and dance school, her drive in her working life as a machinist, the child she gave up for adoption and the influence she had in bringing her extended family together when she returned to her native Southtowns neighborhood for visits.
“We wanted a daughter to make our family complete,” he said of Rylowicz, who would have turned 35 on Tuesday and who had four brothers. Later addressing Lowry directly he said: “You wrote on Facebook that Heather was the best thing that happened to you. If you say you loved her how could you take her life?”
Lowry appeared despondent during the hour-long proceedings, as he sat handcuffed next to public defender Christopher A. Privateer, often looking at the floor and wearing a blue Niagara County Jail jumper and black shoes. Eventually, he acknowledged the egregious nature of his actions in a brief statement.
“I just want to say that I’m very sorry for what I did,” he said. “It’s wrong and I accept the punishment.”
Judge Richard C. Kloch and Assistant District Attorney Holly E. Sloma had no sympathy for Lowry, as they sought to ensure that when he is first eligible for a Parole Board hearing in 2028, his release from the state prison would be denied.
“If it happened to my daughters I’d be just like you are, madder than hell,” Kloch said to Mr. Rylowicz, before denying requests from Privateer to redact a written statement made by North Tonawanda Police Chief William Hall about the homicide. “You’re daughter was my neighbor. I’m a North Tonawandan to the core,” it said.
“Do I think 25 years to life is adequate to address the harm?” Kloch added. “No. He should spend the rest of his life in jail. Period.”Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.