“This is probably one of the easiest sentences I’ve ever had to determine,” Judge Kenneth F. Case said Wednesday before telling John M. Avent that he would spend the rest of his life in prison.
An Erie County Court jury convicted Avent earlier this year of murdering his girlfriend, Roberta A. Rybinski, 51, in March 2016. He was sentenced to an indefinite prison term of 25 years to life.
Avent, 50, a career criminal, had changed lawyers three times and tried to have his conviction overturned before his sentencing. He continues to deny he killed Rybinski, his attorney said.
However, the evidence against him at trial was compelling. It included a jailhouse phone call to a relative after his arrest in which Avent is heard saying, “What did I do, man? I threw my life away, and for what?”
Avent took Rybinski’s television to a pawn shop, and when he arrested a few days after she was killed, he was driving her car.
Rybinski’s body was found a few days after her death on the sofa in an apartment she shared with Avent on Newell Avenue in the Town of Tonawanda. She had two stab wounds in her neck. Trial witnesses testified they had seen the two arguing earlier that day.
Avent and Rybinski had a contentious relationship and at one point she obtained an order of protection against him. The judge pointed out before sentencing that Avent’s ex-wife also had a order of protection at one time and that Avent was convicted of robbing a woman at gunpoint in the 1990s and of assaulting a woman with a baseball bat in 1984.
“Out of 30 years of your adult life, you’ve spent 20 in prison,” Case said. “It looks like you’ll spend the rest of your life there, and you certainly deserve it.”
Members of Rybinski’s family expressed gratitude for the sentence outside of court but added they feel lost without their loved one.
Before the sentence was pronounced, Rybinski’s sister Jackie Wert told the court, “We hope he spends the rest of his life in prison, in fear and desperation, just like he left my sister.”