A mother’s plea for leniency played a role in a judge’s decision to sentence a Prince George man to house arrest rather than time in jail for an alcohol-fueled crash that led to the death of the woman’s son.
Tyler Ian Curtis, 32, was behind the wheel of his pickup on the evening of Jan. 14, 2021, when he lost control as it entered a curve while heading north on Foothills Boulevard. Moments before, the truck was seen passing on a double-solid line at high speed despite the road's slippery winter conditions.
A short distance from Chief Lake Road, the truck slammed into a power pole on the passenger side before coming to rest on its roof. Downed powerlines complicated the rescue effort but Curtis was able to make it up to the roadside.
However his friend, James Lindsay, who was 29 years old at the time, was pronounced dead at the scene due to multiple blunt force trauma.
During a hearing in July, Crown counsel argued that Curtis deserved two years in jail followed by two years probation, noting that his blood-alcohol level measured .179, he was roughly a month into a 90-day driving prohibition for a previous bout of driving while impaired, had been seen joyriding around the area earlier the same day and his sight limited to a single eye.
Defence lawyer Jason LeBlond, meanwhile, contended a two-year conditional sentence order - in which the term is served at home with the convicted wearing an electronic monitor - followed by three years probation, was more appropriate.
Curtis had no previous criminal record, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing death at the earliest opportunity, has not touched a drop of alcohol since then, and was deeply remorseful for his actions, LeBlond told the court.
But perhaps the biggest turning point came at the end of the hearing when Lindsay's mother, Donna Pike, who was taking in the hearing from her home in New Brunswick via teleconferencing, asked to speak to the court.
She went on to urge house arrest and put some of the blame on her son for getting into the truck with Curtis.
"I don't think James would want him in jail. I don't think it would serve him any good to tear his family apart," Pike said in part and described Curtis as a "good man" who did not commit the act deliberately.
Curtis and Lindsay were lifelong friends who grew up together in New Brunswick but with an apparent penchant for getting into trouble when they were together.
In pursuit of job prospects, Curtis eventually found himself in Prince George where he had lived for eight years and where he and his common-law spouse are the parents of two boys.
Curtis has had a history of substance abuse. He had stopped drinking heavily once he met his spouse but that changed when Lindsay moved to Prince George and began living with the family a few weeks before the fatality.
In issuing a lengthy decision, Provincial Court Judge Peter McDermick had harsh words for Curtis's behaviour, calling the circumstances "exceedingly grave" but also gave weight to Pike's plea that he not be sentenced to jail.
"This court would have to be totally tone deaf to not earnestly weigh to consider that request," McDermick said and went on to cite two other cases in which the culprit was sentenced to a conditional sentence order after the victim's family sought leniency from the court.
McDermick also found Curtis’s remorse and grief are genuine and deep and made note of the emotional fallout that has included attempts at suicide, post-traumatic stress and a lack of appetite that has led to the loss of 120 pounds.
Curtis was sentenced to two years house arrest that keeps him on his property other than when working or in the case of a medical emergency, except for two hours twice a week. He must also complete 100 hours of community work service within the first six months.
Once the conditional sentence is completed, Curtis must continue to report to a probation officer for the next three years and take counselling for mental health issues as directed.
Curtis is also prohibited from driving for five years.