Mhelody Bruno’s killer will not serve a jail sentence despite being found guilty of manslaughter. Justice Gordon Lerve found that Ms Bruno died as a result of a ‘consensual sex act’.
Mhelody Bruno was holidaying in Australia from the Philippines and due to fly home a week after her death. Mourners honoured Ms Bruno with vigils in Wagga Wagga and Sydney. In Brisbane, another vigil on Transgender Day of Remembrance honoured her memory.
Rian Ross Toyer, 33, pleaded guilty in the Wagga Wagga District Court to unlawfully killing Mhelody Bruno on or about September 21, 2019. The then corporal in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) began a relationship with Ms Bruno about three weeks before her death. They met via Grindr.
Toyer told police he commonly choked Ms Bruno during sex by placing his hand over her throat. He said that while she never asked him to choke her, she also never asked him to stop.
Justice Lerve accepted the testimony of Mhelody Bruno’s killer regarding the erotic asphyxia. The judge said he was ‘satisfied on balance’ that Mhelody Bruno consented to the choking. He also believed she instigated the choking when the couple first had sex.
“The deceased at least impliedly consented to the conduct.”
Justice Lerve found that despite the couple never verbally discussing any agreement, one existed.
“A method of communication whereby the deceased would tap on the offender’s arm.”
He found that the method failed on the occasion of Mhelody Bruno’s death.
On Friday, September 20, 2019, Mhelody Bruno and Rian Toyer argued but nevertheless spent the night together. He choked her during sex the following morning.
Later, Toyer commenced CPR and called emergency services after realising Ms Bruno was unconscious. Doctors at Wagga Wagga Hospital placed Ms Bruno in an induced coma but she died the following day.
Community service for Mhelody Bruno’s killer
Justice Lerve sentenced Toyer to a 22-month Intensive Correction Order with conditions including 500 hours of community service. The sentence included a 25% discount for his guilty plea. The judge also took into account that the RAAF sacked Toyer because of the death. He found that amounted to extra-curial punishment.
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