The woman who was drunk at the wheel of the van that sped through a red light and crashed into Surrey’s Kassandra Kaulius last year apologized in court Tuesday morning, saying words couldn’t express how sorry she was for causing the 22-year-old’s death.
“If I could take it back, I would trade places with her in a second,” said Natasha Warren, 35, facing the judge in Surrey Provincial Court.
“Please don’t drink and drive,” she said, vowing to speak to youth about her experience, “it hurts so many people.”
Tuesday was the second day of Warren’s sentencing hearing. In July, she pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing death, impaired driving causing death and failure to stop at an accident causing bodily harm.
The Crown is seeking a three-and-a-half year federal jail term, plus a five-year driving prohibition after her sentence concludes. The defence wants a jail sentence of just over two years (25 months), plus a five-year driving ban.
Warren’s lawyer, Mark Cacchioni, said his client is a “decent young woman” who suffers immense grief daily living with the knowledge she’s responsible for Kaulius’ death.
He said she always wanted to plead guilty, but he advised her not to do so until he reviewed the Crown’s case. Then she not only pleaded guilty, but fully cooperated with police, providing the hockey jersey she was wearing the night of the crash and a DNA sample.
“Actions speak louder than words,” said Cacchioni. “She’s preparing herself for atonement…”
Dale Trimble, a counsellor who saw Warren seven times this year, said she immediately said she wanted to take responsibility for the crash and showed a willingness to go to prison – something he said he rarely sees when counselling accused criminals.
Shelley Warren, Natasha’s mom, said her daughter is “just a regular girl,” not unlike Kassandra, and her actions on the night Kaulius was killed were “inconceivable” and out of character.
“My daughter is a very, very good, kind-hearted person. From the time she was little, she’s always wanted to help people.”
She said Natasha would normally be the one to take car keys from people who had been drinking.
Family friend Jacqueline Gill said Natasha wants to take responsibility for the fatal collision and has never tried to minimize what happened.
Cacchioni argued that the Crown’s requested sentence of 42 months amounted to “isolating” her from society. He said instead of “warehousing” her for that long, her time could be better spent fulfilling her desire to spread the message about he horrors of drunk driving.
On Monday the court heard that Warren had at least a bottle and a half of wine before getting in her company van the night of M
ay 3, 2011. Kaulius was waiting to turn at the intersection of 152 Street and 64 Avenue when Warren ran the red light, going 103 km/h, and slammed into her car. Warren then fled the scene into a wooded area nearby, before being located and arrested.
Breath samples after the crash showed her blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit.
Markita Kaulius, Kassandra’s mom, said time will tell if Natasha uses her experience for good. The family objected to Natasha’s mom comparing her to Kassandra, and was disappointed Warren didn’t take the opportunity to face them as she issued her
apology in court.
“She had one chance to look at us and she didn’t,” said Markita.
Warren, who has reportedly abstained from drinking since the crash, has no prior criminal record and wants to become a youth probation officer.
Her sentence is scheduled to be handed down on Dec. 28.
The Kaulius’ are discouraged that Warren gets to spend Christmas with her family when they’ll never have another with Kassandra.
“The angel on top of our tree has a whole new meaning,” said Markita.