The wife of the accused was the first witness for the defence in the Vernon Supreme Court trial of a Coldstream man accused of striking and killing a pedestrian with his car.
Marcia Donaldson told defence lawyer Paul Danyliu that on the evening of April 30, 2010, she and her husband, Chase Garett Donaldson, had been to a 60th anniversary celebration for her grandparents, and that she had left the party at 7:30 p.m.
“Chase and my brother (Nick Hlina) stayed behind to help clean up chairs and tables,” said Marcia.
Chase Donaldson has pleaded not guilty to one count of criminal negligence causing death and one count of failing to stop at an accident causing bodily harm in connection with the death on April 30, 2010 of Kiera-Leigh Carlson, 22, who was struck by a vehicle on Aberdeen Road as she was walking to Vernon to work.
Marcia Donaldson told the court that her husband came home with her brother, came inside and got the keys to the family’s 2006 Subaru Impreza – the Donaldsons also had a company pick-up vehicle – before heading out again, and that he left the house “at close to 8:30 p.m.”
“Chase came back a half-hour later,” said Marcia. “I could tell something had happened because Chase was upset and a little shocked.
“He said ‘I hit something, I’m not sure what I hit.’”
Marcia said she again asked her husband what had happened. He replied he had been driving down Aberdeen Road toward the stoplight at Highway 6, and that “when he was coming to the corner before the light, he checked his rear view mirror.”
“When he looked ahead again, he saw headlights coming toward him and swerved to avoid them,” said Marcia, fighting back tears. “He felt a bump and said he slammed on the brakes, did a U-turn and pulled over behind a car on the side of the road.”
Under cross examination, Crown lawyer Iain Currie asked Marcia Donaldson why she didn’t tell police in her statement about her husband checking his rear view mirror.
“I tried to be helpful to the police,” she said.
“I’d suggest looking into his rear view mirror then seeing a car coming at him is a pretty significant fact the police ought to know,” said Currie.
“Yes,” answered Marcia.
Marcia Donaldson testified she went outside to examine the damage to the Subaru and “saw the driver’s side headlight broken, the panel on the driver’s front side was indented, the mirror was gone and there was a dent on the roof.”
She also testified that she and her husband went out at separate times back to the scene the night of the accident, but both “saw nothing.”
Chase Donaldson went out the next morning, around 7 or 7:15 a.m. to survey the scene, but returned home five or 10 minutes later.
“He said the scene was surrounded by cops and that it looked like a crime scene,” said Marcia.
A missed call number on Chase’s cell phone Friday night turned out to be a police operator returning a call after Chase accidentally dialed 911, and the Donaldsons reported that Chase had hit “something.”
The next day, the Donaldsons called the same number, spoke to three different people and Marcia said she was told “Chase must be the guy that hit the girl.”
“Police came over and arrested him,” said Marcia.
Crown wrapped up its case Friday morning with Hlina being the final witness.
Hlina told Crown of a phone conversation he had with Chase Donaldson after the accident.
“He said ‘Dude, I think I hit something,’ I can’t remember much more than that,” said Hlina. “I think I said I believed he hit the black car (coming off of Highway 6).”
Asked Donaldson’s demeanor during the phone call, Hlina said “he sounded a little shook up.”
Under cross examination, Danyliu asked Hlina if the pair had been street racing.
“No,” said Hlina, who testified that Donaldson was ahead of him on Aberdeen Road, but that he lost sight of him when Donaldson reached the S curve near the intersection of Venables Drive. Hlina found him again after going through the S curve himself, then lost sight again after Donaldson rounded a car near the offices of the Regional District of North Okanagan.
Asked by Danyliu what speed Donaldson was traveling at when he hit the S curve, Hlina replied, “I have no idea.”
And asked if he often drove Aberdeen Road and saw pedestrians walking along it, Hlina answered yes, he’s been on the road a lot, and “never sees pedestrians on the road.”
He said he did not see a pedestrian on the road the night of April 30, 2010.
The trial is scheduled to conclude Tuesday.