Shaunna Radford can’t get the sound of the sirens, the glare of the police lights or the image of her friend’s body lying lifeless on a White Rock road out of her mind.
The scene that unfolded around her on May 18, 2011 changed her world forever, Radford told Judge Michael Hicks at an emotional sentencing hearing for Kyle Danyliuk, the man who pleaded guilty to being behind the wheel of the car that struck and killed Marilyn Laursen that night.
Danyliuk very nearly killed her, too, Radford said, reading aloud her victim-impact statement in Surrey Provincial Court Thursday.
Radford and Laursen, 56, were crossing Johnston Road at Thrift Avenue together around 9:30 p.m. when Danyliuk, driving his girlfriend’s dark-red Nissan Maxima, sped through the intersection, hitting Laursen in the crosswalk.
“I only needed to reach my hand out behind to touch the car that brought death,” Radford said.
The court heard how Danyliuk, a South Surrey resident, knew he’d hit Laursen but never stopped. He fled the scene, dumped the Nissan and was arrested two months later following an intensive police investigation, Hicks heard.
After initially denying his involvement, Danyliuk confessed to the crime the night of his arrest, Last February, he pleaded guilty to four charges in connection with the tragedy: dangerous driving causing death; dangerous driving causing bodily harm (in connection with another driver who was injured just before he hit Laursen); failure to stop at an accident scene causing death and failure to stop at an accident scene causing bodily harm.
(In August, criminal charges were announced against the White Rock RCMP officer who had been pursuing Danyliuk immediately prior to the collision. Const. David Bickle is next scheduled to be in court on Oct. 23.)
Prosecutor Brad Kielmann asked Hicks Thursday to impose a global sentence of 48 months in jail on Danyliuk. The term suggested includes concurrent sentences of 30 months and 12 months for each of the respective dangerous-driving counts, and concurrent sentences of 18 months and nine months for each of the failure-to-stop counts, to be served consecutively.
In support of the sentence, Kielmann outlined “selfish and irresponsible” behaviour that first caught the attention of Bickle that night as Danyliuk drove along Marine Drive.
Danyliuk did not pull over when Bickle turned on his flashing lights, the court heard. In the subsequent pursuit, the vehicles reached 88 km/h along Buena Vista Avenue; Danyliuk’s speed along Johnston Road was “in excess of 80 km/h,” Kielmann said.
Approaching the intersection at Thrift Avenue, Danyliuk’s vehicle struck a white Honda whose driver had seen the police lights in her rear-view mirror and was attempting to move out of the way. Then, Danyliuk continued through the intersection “without braking or stopping,” Kielmann said.
“The accused collided with two individuals,” Kielmann said. “One person died and the other continues to suffer.”
Danyliuk abandoned the Nissan a few blocks away, near Lilac Drive and Tulip Drive, Kielmann said. Shortly after, Danyliuk’s girlfriend, Carleigh Merritt – who was 27 weeks pregnant at the time – called 911 to report the vehicle stolen.
Kielmann asked Hicks to consider aggravating factors including that Danyliuk did not have a driver’s licence at the time of the crash, and that he allowed the stolen-vehicle story to continue for the two months prior to his arrest.
He and defence lawyer Isaac Ferbey agreed that an early guilty plea and Danyliuk’s expression of remorse noted in a pre-sentence report are mitigating factors in sentencing.
Ferbey, however, argued that a provincial jail term of 18 months to two years less a day would be a more appropriate sentence for his client.
Ferbey cited reference letters from Danyliuk’s family members and employer that describe the 20-year-old as someone who had a difficult childhood but has turned his life around since the collision and subsequent birth of his son.
He has followed bail conditions “to the letter,” Ferbey said.
Danyliuk’s employer, Larry Telford, described him as smart, trustworthy, hard-working and dedicated. His grandmother wrote that Danyliuk “wants to be everything that his own father wasn’t for him.”
In his confession to police, Danyliuk said he had wanted to stop after hitting Laursen, “but he didn’t know where he was going,” Ferbey said, adding Danyliuk physically beat himself up for what happened.
Danyliuk returned to the scene of the crash a couple weeks later and left flowers, Ferbey said.
Ferbey described Danyliuk as “very genuine in his remorse.”
“This is not a case where there is call for a penitentiary term.”
Both Ferbey and Kielmann called for a five-year driving prohibition. Kielmann also asked that Danyliuk be made to give a DNA sample.
Tearful family and friends of both Danyliuk and Laursen packed the small courtroom to hear the lawyers’ submissions, prompting delays in the proceedings start as Hicks allowed the sheriffs time to try to accommodate the crowd.
Laursen’s mother and siblings were among those who turned out; Danyliuk’s grandmother, now-fiancé Merritt and young son were also in court.
Laursen’s daughter, Angela Bowman – who had come from Australia to attend a previously scheduled sentencing hearing in July that was cancelled with short notice – was unable to attend.
After hearing from the lawyers, Radford and two of Laursen’s sisters, Hicks asked Danyliuk if he wished to speak.
Standing, Danyliuk asked if he should address Hicks or the courtroom. Assured the options were one and the same, he made a short statement.
“On May 18, I was driving a car when I shouldn’t have been,” he said. “I’ve ruined the lives of a lot of people plus myself.”
Hicks then explained to those who had sat through the proceedings that he would not be imposing a sentence that afternoon.
“I hope you’ll understand that it would not be possible for me to reach a conclusion (today) with all of this information,” he said, citing a large number of issues that must be considered and balanced first.
“Mr. Danyliuk, as the offender before the court, is entitled to that care and consideration,” as are the victims’ family and friends, and the community as a whole, he said.
A date to impose sentence was to be set Friday. Hicks said he expects to give his decision in about three weeks.
Prior to the hearing, Laursen’s brother, Christian, told Peace Arch News there isn’t a sentence that will make the death of his sister any easier to bear.
“It doesn’t matter (what Danyliuk gets),” he said. “It’s not getting her back.
“Whatever he gets, he should get more.”
He said that while he has thought about forgiving Danyliuk, he “could never do it.”
Laursen’s mom, Mildred, said after the hearing that a severe sentence would not make her feel any better.
“I just hope he gets a just and honest sentence, and that he learns from it,” she said.