Burnaby RCMP had to go undercover to get proof that retired Burnaby machine operator Lyle Murray Fraser was driving his car the day it hit Nedzad Hadzismajlovic and changed his life forever, according to information presented at a sentencing hearing Monday.
Fraser, 71, was in Vancouver provincial court for sentencing after pleading guilty in June to failing to stop at the scene of an accident involving a pedestrian on a marked crosswalk in the 7400 block of Gilley Avenue on March 4, 2018.
Fraser had originally been charged with the more serious criminal offence of failing to the stop at the scene of an accident involving bodily harm but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge as part of a plea deal.
It took nearly four years for Fraser to be charged at all.
Using paint chips and debris from the accident scene, police quickly located the vehicle involved (a red Toyota Matrix) parked behind Fraser's house, just 550 metres away from the accident scene.
Fraser was the registered owner of the car, but investigators weren't able to establish who was driving the vehicle at the time of the crash.
"The RCMP subsequently initiated an undercover operation to identify the driver of the motor vehicle, which struck Mr. Hadzismajlovic in March 2018," said Crown prosecutor Jim Cryder, reading out a statement of agreed facts. "Three years later, in April 2021, the RCMP interviewed a friend of Mr. Fraser's who confirmed that Mr. Fraser left the residence on the night of March 4, 2018, was driving the red Toyota and confessed to them that he had hit something driving home."
Fraser was finally charged in February 2022, nearly five years after the accident.
Hadzismajlovic, who was 69 years old at the time, was carried 33 metres after being hit by the Matrix and suffered catastrophic injuries, including a traumatic brain injury, spinal injury, vascular injuries and broken bones, including a fractured pelvis.
He spent a total of eight months in hospital.
"His life continues to be compromised," Cryder said.
In a victim impact statement, Hadzismajlovic's wife of 43 years said the impact the injuries has "indescribable and unimaginable" on her, her husband — a retired engineer — and their only son.
"I miss my husband Ned more than I can convey," she said.
She said the family has had to create a "microworld" in which they try to find "bits of meaning."
"Sometimes we succeed," she said.
She thanked Amanda Ribeiro, a driver directly behind Fraser's vehicle, who stopped to help the unconscious Hadzismajlovic and called 911.
Hadzismajlovic's wife also thanked the staff at Royal Columbian Hospital and the Burnaby RCMP.
"They didn’t give up until the person responsible for the tragedy Ned and our family have suffered faced the consequences of his actions despite his initial cowardly choice to flee and hide," said the victim impact statement.
Probation, driving ban, $2,000 fine
In a joint sentencing submission, Cryder and defence lawyer Joel Whysall called for two years of probation, including house arrest and a curfew, a two-year driving ban and a $2,000 fine.
In handing down that sentence, B.C. provincial court Judge David St. Pierre noted there was no evidence from Ribeiro or security video footage of the crash that Fraser had been speeding or driving unsafely when he hit Hadzismajlovic.
"The sentence is solely for leaving," St. Pierre said.
On that note, however, St. Pierre said drivers are responsible for operating "incredibly dangerous machinery" and society "can’t tolerate an incident happening and the person just leaving the scene."
But St. Pierre ended the sentencing on a hopeful note
"As you said in your (apology) letter, it's not your finest moment," St. Pierre said. "That's probably not the way you raised you children, but that decision that you made, that doesn't define you as a person."