Death of one daughter, severe injuring of another: mother tells sentencing hearing about her grief and pain

A mother's grief and pain

Eighty-four-year-old Ellen Ward lives by herself and has been deprived of the care, companionship and comfort of her two daughters, B.C. Supreme Court heard Tuesday.

Her life as the mother of two vital, independent, intelligent, adventurous daughters changed in a moment when Anthony Thomas struck and killed Kim and critically injured Tracey on the evening of Aug. 27, 2018, said Ward, reading aloud her victim impact statement at Thomas’s sentencing hearing.

“My days are spent with the challenge of working with Tracey … all the while dealing with the grief of losing Kim. I lie awake at night worrying about Tracey’s future when I’m no longer here,” she said. “Kim and Tracey were much loved by family and friends. Their happy smiling faces are missed every day and all because an impaired driver made the choice of getting behind the wheel of a car.”

It’s an additional challenge when Tracey asks her mother why Kim isn’t visiting her, Crown prosecutor Tim Stokes told the court. Tracey, who has severe cognitive difficulties, finds it difficult to realize Kim is gone. The question forces Ellen to relive the trauma of her loss and has a devastating impact on Tracey, who has never recovered from her injuries and lives in a care home, he said.

Stokes is seeking a four-and-a-half to five-year prison sentence for Thomas, 30, who was convicted in March of impaired driving causing death and bodily harm and dangerous driving causing death and bodily harm. He is also asking the court to impose a 10-year driving prohibition from the date of sentence.

Defence lawyer Peter Blokmanis has asked the court for a two-year prison sentence and a three-year-driving prohibition.

The judge found Thomas took methamphetamine and passed out at the wheel from extreme fatigue, in the crash phase of methamphetamine. He crossed the centre line of Central Saanich Road, hit the grassy boulevard and struck the two women who were out walking their dogs.

A pre-sentence report and a Gladue report, which looks at circumstances that should be taken into account when sentencing Indigenous persons, were prepared to assist at sentencing. The reports revealed that Thomas is a member of the Tsartlip First Nation. His parents separated when he was young. His father, who is now deceased, witnessed violence in his childhood and struggled with alcohol. His mother misused alcohol for a period of time, but not in the presence of her children, said Stokes.

Despite the setbacks of his parents, Thomas had a fairly stable childhood and denies any abuse, neglect or trauma growing up. He continues to have a close relationship with his mother and sisters.

His stepfather and his maternal grandparents were alcoholics, but taught Thomas at a young age about his culture, the traditional lifestyle and the healing properties of plants.

When Thomas stumbled in his teens and started using marijuana and alcohol, he was introduced to the long house, where he continues to play an active role, said Stokes. He took a cooking course at Vancouver Island University and has worked at various pubs and restaurants in Greater Victoria. He is a father of four and has contact with his two eldest children.

Thomas admits he took drugs on the day of the collision and has regretted that choice every day, said Stokes. He attempted suicide in 2021. He has not used drugs or alcohol since the day of the crash.

It’s an aggravating factor that Thomas was driving 26 kilometres over the speed limit before the collision and that he was caught speeding in 2021, said Stokes. Most aggravating is the significant impact on the victims.

“The bodily harm on Tracey Ward is almost at the very highest end,” said the prosecutor.

Thomas’s youth, lack of criminal record and good family support are mitigating factors, said Stokes, who asked the judge to find the Gladue factors in the case are modest.

Blokmanis disagreed. Forty-eight hours before the collision, Thomas was at the bedside of his father who was in hospital for alcoholism. He continues to take counselling, feels extreme remorse and takes responsibility for his actions, he said.

“He wishes he could live that day over again. He would have made different choices,” said Blokmanis, reading from the Gladue report. “He told the report writer ‘the guilt, shame, remorse, regret is overwhelming at times. I am so very sorry for the life that was lost and saying sorry to the family cannot be put into enough words to express my deepest condolences.’”

The sentencing hearing continues today.

More BC News