Wagga Supreme Court sends Narrandera's Jonwa Rowe to jail for murdering Leeton cyclist

TRAGEDY: Leeton man Stephen O'Grady, 33, was murdered in 2018 when Jonwa Rowe ran over him four times. Picture: Facebook
TRAGEDY: Leeton man Stephen O'Grady, 33, was murdered in 2018 when Jonwa Rowe ran over him four times. Picture: Facebook

A RIVERINA man has been sentenced to a maximum of 23 years' jail for driving his ute to mow down a cyclist before running over him multiple times to "finish the job".

Narrandera's Jonwa Rowe, 27, appeared in Wagga Supreme Court on Monday after pleading guilty to murdering Leeton man Stephen O'Grady.

The court heard that Mr O'Grady, 33, was cycling in Leeton in the early hours of March 25, 2018 when a Toyota HiLux struck him from behind.

Rowe, who was driving the ute, not only failed stop after the collision, which occurred about 2am on Currawang Avenue, he then went back to run over Mr O'Grady four times.

Emergency services were unable to resuscitate him at the scene.

Court documents state that the incident happened after Mr O'Grady refused to shake Rowe's hand during a brief interaction at a service station earlier that night.

The court heard Rowe, who had been drinking and taking prohibited drugs in the previous 24 hours after celebrating a cricket grand final win, was left feeling humiliated and excluded from the altercation with Mr O'Grady.

There were at least two eyewitnesses and CCTV footage of the moment when Rowe hit O'Grady and then drove over him.

In court, Justice Michael Walton said Crown prosecutor Trevor Bailey had proven beyond reasonable doubt that Rowe intended to kill the victim.

He said the offender approached Mr O'Grady from the opposite side of the road at a relatively fast pace.

"There was no deceleration of the vehicle on CCTV ... and no evidence of braking after the first impact," Justice Walton said.

The movement of the vehicle demonstrated deliberateness and intention to kill.

Justice Michael Walton

Defence barrister Eric Wilson had argue that it was Rowe's uncontrolled panic, rather than intention, to kill Mr O'Grady.

During a police interview after being arrested, he said "I went back to finish the job" because he was scared that Mr O'Grady would identify him.

Justice Walton accepted that Rowe was humiliated at the service station but rejected the premise that Rowe intended to only scare Mr O'Grady.

"The movement of the vehicle demonstrated deliberateness and intention to kill," he said.

Justice Walton also cited the victim impact statements read by the family members during an earlier hearing, saying the emotional harm caused was substantial.

"The grief on the family is profound and ongoing and this is recognised by the court," he said.

Mr Wilson also argued for leniency based on his client's ADHD diagnosis, illicit substance abuse, lower-average intelligence and history of social exclusion because he was adopted from Sri Lanka.

However, Justice Walton said Rowe used "a high level of violence to cause fatal injuries to [the] deceased" and that the four times he ran over Mr O'Grady after the initial hit had planning involved.

He also said Rowe had good prospects of rehabilitation because of his early guilty plea and remorse shown to the victim's family.

Outside court, Mr O'Grady's father, Stephen O'Grady senior, said the jail term was "not long enough".

With a non-parole period of 17 years and six months, Rowe will be eligible for early release in September 2035 having already served 20 months in custody pre-sentence.

If released to parole, he will be disqualified from driving for 12 months.

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