The father of Surrey’s Travis Selje, who was killed in a 2017 Cloverdale crash, says he feels betrayed by the justice system after the driver who crashed into the 17-year-old boy’s car at high speed was acquitted of criminal negligence causing death.
“This country has taken everything from me and now it’s spit in my face,” said Miki Selje, whose family waited nearly four years for a trial to take place. “I want them to appeal. I will go through this again. Because this is not fair, this cannot stand.
“I would want them to do it again. I would go through this hell again,” the grieving father told the Now-Leader. As for the finding of not guilty, he said, “I think it’s bullshit.”
Dan McLaughlin, a spokesman for the BC Prosecution Service and Ministry of the Attorney General, said Monday that the prosecution service “is reviewing the recent ruling carefully” and that “no decision will be made regarding the next steps until the review is complete. There will be no comment on the ruling or the process of review while it is underway.”
Justice Jeanne Watchuk found Surrey’s Rituraj Kaur Grewal, 26, not guilty of criminal negligence causing death in the crash. Grewal had been driving her father’s Cadillac at age 22 when it slammed into Selje’s Honda Prelude at high speed on May 3, 2017 at the intersection of 64th Avenue and 176th Street. The boy died in hospital two days later.
Grewal testified she has no recollection of the crash and believes she had an epileptic seizure that caused the collision. Watchuk found her to be a “forthright” witness and “credible in her evidence, generally.
“The charges alone do not reflect the enormity of this tragedy,” Watchuk said, launching into her 47-page reasons for decision last Thursday. After discussing her reasons for decision for more than two hours, Watchuk told Grewal, “You are free to leave the courtroom.”
“After consideration of the evidence, the facts as found based on the totality of the evidence, the law and the application of the law to these facts, all as set out above, I therefore find you Ms. Grewal not guilty on counts one, two and three.”
An RCMP forensic expert testified during the trial, which was heard in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster, that the Cadillac was doing 142 km/h in a 60 km/h zone just prior to hitting Selje’s car.
The court also heard during the trial that Grewal crashed into another car but kept going until she hit Selje’s car further on down the road. For that she was also charged with failing to remain at the scene of a collision, as well as criminal negligence causing bodily harm in the case of another driver, Gary Mordecai. Watchuk also acquitted her on these charges.
The judge found Grewal to be “continuingly troubled” by the collision and “deeply remorseful for the death of Travis and the harm done by her driving.”
“I accept her evidence in its entirety,” the judge said. She concluded Grewal was not controlling the Cadillac as it accelerated and changed lanes prior to the fatal crash.
She accepted that Grewal’s driving was consistent with the medical evidence presented by the defence that she suffered from a progression of epileptic seizures “wherein there is an increasing loss of motor control.”
“On the totallity of the evidence that Ms. Grewal was having an epileptic seizure,” she said, “the Crown has not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that it was unreasonable for Ms. Grewal to be driving a car on May 3rd, 2017.”
Miki Selje said Monday he sensed what the verdict would be before the judge started in on her reasons.
“I knew what she was going to say when I walked into the courtroom. We went into a different courtroom, we went in one where people watching were behind glass, she was behind glass, there was six guards in there. I knew she was going to walk, as soon as I walked into that courtroom.”
Selje’s death tore a hole in the community.
“He was an incredible human being,” Miki Selje said of his son.
The 1,095-seat Cloverdale Baptist Church was filled to capacity on May 17, 2017 as mourners celebrated the straight-A honour roll student’s life. His dad told the Now-Leader at the outset of the trial in February that there’s “no such thing” as closure.
“People always say, ‘Oh, you’re looking for closure.’ No. There’s no such thing as closure. It’s a wound that will never close, so there’s no closure,” he said.
“My soul is gone. I am no longer a whole person.”
Grewal testified during the trial that she has no criminal record.
According to court documents, however, Rituraj Kaur Grewal, age 26, has 10 traffic violations, nine of which were deemed by the courts to be “not disputed.”
Rituraj Kaur Grewal was ticketed on June 29, 2013 in Surrey for speeding and failing to display a new driver sign. On Sept. 3, 2013 she was ticketed for speeding in Vancouver, and found guilty. And on Nov. 3, 2015 she was ticketed in Surrey for failing to produce a drivers licence or insurance, and driving a motor vehicle without due care and attention.
On Nov. 19, 2015 she was ticketed in Surrey for “failing to yield after stop.” On Jan. 7, 2016 she was ticketed in Langley for failing to wear a seatbelt and on Nov. 19, 2016 she was ticketed in Langley for using an electronic device while driving.
On Dec. 16, 2016 she was ticketed for speeding, as well as driving without reasonable consideration.