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Lowry pleads guilty in slaying of North Tonawanda woman

LOCKPORT – Brian C. Lowry pleaded guilty as charged Thursday in the murder of his girlfriend, Heather M. Rylowicz of North Tonawanda.

He admitted slicing her throat with a knife and smashing her skull with a sledgehammer in her Lincoln Avenue home.

Her body was found Nov. 21, but Deputy District Attorney Holly E. Sloma said the 34-year-old woman might have died as early as Nov. 2 or 3, shortly after Lowry was released from jail in Erie County, where he faced a drug charge.

Lowry, 32, admitted to second-degree murder and nine other charges in exchange for a sentence of 15 years to life in prison offered by State Supreme Court Justice Richard C. Kloch Sr.

“That means you could die in prison. That’s the end of the story,” Kloch told Lowry, who said he understood.

The plea was entered after Kloch read aloud the results of two doctors’ psychiatric examinations of Lowry. Both said Lowry had personality disorders and heard voices in his head. However, Lowry is now on medications, and the doctors deemed him competent to stand trial.

The maximum sentence for murder is 25 years to life, but Kloch said he intends to give Lowry the minimum, 15 years to life, when he returns to court May 30.

The number of years refers to the earliest date Lowry could seek parole.

“My own feeling, based on what you’ve said on the record, is that you should serve the maximum amount that can be imposed,” Kloch said. But the judge said he was concerned about the Rylowicz family.

“I want to avoid for them the ugliness and destructiveness and uncertainty of a trial,” Kloch said in explaining his sentencing commitment.

“I would have rather seen him get 20 years to life. He’s getting off easy,” said the victim’s father, Frank Rylowicz of Brocton. “He’s still young enough to go out and do this to somebody else.”

Assistant Public Defender Christopher A. Privateer said, “There was an offer for 15 to life. [Lowry] felt if he went to trial, he would lose.”

Sloma said, “From our perspective, we just accomplished having a defendant walk in and plead guilty to every count of the indictment, and the sentencing is in the hands of the court.”

Neither attorney offered any explanation for the slaying. Lowry and Rylowicz, who began a relationship last summer, had no reported history of domestic violence, although a neighbor told The Buffalo News on Thanksgiving Day that he heard the couple arguing last summer.

“You cut her throat?” Kloch asked Lowry.

“Yes,” Lowry answered.

“And then you hit her on the head with a hammer?” the judge asked.

“Yes,” said Lowry.

Besides the murder count, Lowry admitted to two counts of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon; one count each of third-degree grand larceny and petit larceny; and five counts of fourth-degree grand larceny. The larceny charges related to Lowry’s theft of Rylowicz’s car, cellphone and four credit cards.