On June 13, 1919, Gregory Homeniuk passed away. Normally, this wouldn’t have caused much of a stir. He was an elderly man, a farmer living 12 miles southwest of Foam Lake. But it was the manner of his death that rocked the community. Gregory Homeniuk had been viciously beaten on June 9th and had died from his injuries four days later.
On the same day Gregory Homeniuk passed away, his son-in-law, John Kitzul, was arrested. According to newspaper reports, there was a longstanding feud between the two men, although there were no details given as to what the feud was about or why there was cause for bad blood between the two families. In some articles, journalists attested the fight was over some difficulties with a deal that had depreciated into violence.
A post mortem was completed the same day Homeniuk died. There’d been little hope for his recovery. Homeniuk had at least four broken ribs (in one article he was listed as having over 20 fractures to his ribs) and multiple deep scalp wounds.
An inquest was held the following day and John Kitzul confessed through an interpreter. He told the jury that on the day of the fight he’d gone into his pasture to attend his cattle. As he neared the herd, he saw Homeniuk among the animals. According to him, Homeniuk had jumped into a bluff and started running. Kitzul chased him and overtook him.
“I caught him and hit him on the head with my fist. I knocked him to the ground. He tried to get up and I kicked him on the head or the side; I don’t know which. Homeniuk fell back and I kept on kicking him each time he attempted to rise. I kicked him five or six times. I kicked him so many times he was unable to get up.”
Kitzul went on to say that Homeniuk had pled for mercy and cried out for Kitzul not to kill him. He asked Kitzul for a drink of water and Kitzul obliged, going in search of a pail. When he returned, Homeniuk was gone.
“I was so mad when I hit him, I didn’t care if I killed him or not.”
(While Kitzul was off looking for water, Homeniuk had craled 200 yards to the house of a man named Yudenich and told him that Kitzul had beaten him.)
Kitzul was charged with murder and given a preliminary hearing at Wynyard on June 18, 1919. He was committed to stand trial at the next criminal assizes at Wynyard and taken to Regina jail to await his trial.
The trial opened before Justice Bigelow at Wynyard on November 5, 1919. It lasted three days and on the evening of November 7th, he was found guilty and sentenced to hang on March 19, 1920. Kitzul was about 47 at the time. Homeniuk was listed as 75 in the newspapers, but according to his tombstone he was between 92-93 when he died. Both men had immigrated from Austria.
Just before the day of his sentence arrived, John Kitzul’s sentence was commuted to life in prison. The Honorable C. J. Doherty exercised clemency when the facts of the case were laid before him, as well as the jury’s recommendation for mercy. He reportedly promised to review the case within a year or two in order to see whether further commutation of the sentence was feasible, but I was unable to find any news reports about whether Kitzul’s sentence was altered.
John Kitzul died in 1941 and was buried in the same cemetery as his father-in-law, the Dormition of Mary Ukranian Orthodox Cemetery in Wynyard. His wife, Kalyna Homeniuk Kitzul, died in 1952 and was also buried in the same cemetery.
And that is the story of the beating of Gregory Homeniuk.
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Information for this post came from the website find a grave, as well as the following editions of the Saskatoon Daily Star and Regina Leader-Post: June 14, 1919, June 16, 1919, June 17, 1919, June 18, 1919, June 26, 1919, Nov 3, 1919, Nov 4, 1919, Nov 8, 1919, March 20, 1920
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The Brutal Murder of Florence Beatty
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