The Abbotsford man charged in connection with a car crash that resulted in the death of pregnant pedestrian Laurel Wilson and her father Ralph Jewell in March 2010 was sentenced today (Monday) to a lifetime driving prohibition and a $2,000 fine.
In a sentencing hearing attended by about 20 members of the Wilson and Jewell families, Shaun James Cochrane, 25, pleaded guilty to driving with undue care and attention, an offence under the Motor Vehicle Act.
He was driving a 1998 Ford F-150 pickup south on Ware Street on March 13, 2010, on his way to meet his dad to pick up a new barbecue and go for coffee. Cochrane ran a red light and collided with a Honda Prelude headed east on South Fraser Way.
The crash spun the Prelude in a counter-clockwise direction and into a pedestrian island where Laurel, seven months pregnant; her husband Kevin; and Ralph were waiting to cross.
It was Laurel’s 27th birthday, and the trio were walking to the White Spot restaurant for a celebratory lunch.
Laurel died later that day from massive blood loss from her injuries. Her baby, Chloe, was born in hospital, but did not survive. Ralph, 66, was hospitalized from the time of his crash until he died six months later on Sept. 15.
Kevin sustained minor injuries.
Outside Abbotsford provincial court after the sentencing, the families expressed disappointment at the Canadian legal system.
“I think the justice system has let us down … that type of sentence just doesn’t replace what has been lost,” said Kevin, who wore his deceased wife’s wedding ring on a chain around his neck.
His mother, Sandi Preckel, said she does not feel sorry for Cochrane.
“I’ll never be able to forgive him for what he’s done and what I’ve lost in my life.”
Melodie Jewell – Laurel’s mom and Ralph’s wife – also wore her spouse’s wedding ring as a necklace and sported a yellow blazer in memory of Laurel’s favourite colour.
She said the laws need to change in situations where the negligence of a driver causes death.
Most of the family lives in the U.S., and Laurel’s brother, Douglas Jewell, said a case like this in the States would result in criminal charges of vehicular homicide or manslaughter.
In court, Crown counsel Ross McLeod and defence lawyer Eric Gottardi presented a joint submission suggesting the lifetime driving ban. This was based on a recommendation from a pediatrician at Sunny Hill Health Centre who assessed Cochrane in November 2010 and diagnosed him with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).
A report from the doctor stated that Cochrane was “significantly disabled” and his condition affected his reasoning and his ability to understand cause and effect. She recommended that he never be allowed to drive.
Gottardi said Cochrane, who was adopted at the age of three, did not know he had FASD until after the accident, despite his parents’ previous attempts to obtain a diagnosis for his behavioural, cognitive and social problems.
A total of 14 victim impact statements were presented in court from members of the Wilson and Jewell families, including several of Laurel’s eight siblings. Laurel, the baby of the family, was described as someone who was selfless, “happy and bright,” and didn’t hold grudges. She loved sunflowers and lady bugs, and was looking forward to becoming a first-time mother.
Ralph was described as a devoted family man who was strong, forgiving and supportive and enjoyed working on cars, solving math problems, and playing the saxophone.
Christina McColl, the eldest of the Jewell children, said the loss of the three lives has had profound effects on the entire family.
“There’s no way to describe the toll it takes on your whole being … I’m hurting in a way I never thought I could hurt.”
Gottardi said Cochrane is “extremely remorseful” for the deaths and is haunted by images of the crash scene.
“I just wanted to apologize and, if I could, I would definitely go back and change everything so that this would have never happened,” Cochrane said after turning to face the family members in court.
Judge Kenneth Skilnick agreed that a lifetime driving ban was appropriate, especially given Cochrane’s nine previous motor vehicle convictions, including driving without due care and attention, speeding and driving while suspended.
Skilnick said jail time would not be beneficial, particularly in light of Cochrane’s FASD diagnosis.
“As angry as I think we all feel … a jail sentence would not … rehabilitate Shaun. It wouldn’t change his condition and it would not make one whit of difference (in the loss of the three lives).”