Emotions and tears flowed in Supreme Court in Vernon Friday, as a young Coldstream father was sentenced to jail for hitting an equally young woman with his car in 2010 as she walked along a Coldstream road.
Justice Frank Cole sentenced Chase Donaldson to a total of 32 months in jail for striking and killing pedestrian Kiera-Leigh Carlson with his car on April 30, 2010 as Carlson walked to work along Aberdeen Road.
Cole sentenced Donaldson, 29, a father of two with a third child on the way, to 14 months in jail for dangerous driving causing the death of Carlson, 22.
Donaldson was also sentenced to 18 months in jail for failing to remain at the scene of the accident.
He was found guilty of both charges Tuesday.
He was also given a three-year driving prohibition upon completion of his sentence.
“I am satisfied with Mr. Donaldson’s reputation for being of good character, a devoted husband and family man, having no criminal record and his genuine remorse,” said Cole.
“But this is a high level of moral culpability. He was racing at night with his brother-in-law. He caused the death of a young woman with her adult life still ahead of her. And he failed to follow through a 911 call which would have saved some agony for Kiera’s family.”
Cole said he took into account Donaldson’s good reputation, young family, and no criminal record, but said there must be a clear message in Supreme Court that “this type of selfish conduct will not be tolerated in the community.”
Crown lawyer Iain Currie called for a prison sentence of three-to-four years, while Donaldson’s defence lawyers, Glenn Verdurmen and Paul Danyliu, asked for a suspended sentence with a lengthy probation and community service.
Because the sentence is more than two years, Donaldson will serve his time at a federal penitentiary.
The sentencing came following nearly two hours of emotional closing submissions, which included a teary victim impact statement read by Bev Carlson, Kiera-Leigh’s mom.
“Kiera-Leigh was my baby (the youngest of three girls), we had a special connection and that has been ripped away,” said Carlson through tears. “I’ll never see her again. I’ll never hug her. I’ll never see her dimples. I’ll never see her babies. It’s not fair that she has been taken from us and was left in a ditch.”
Donaldson also showed a lot of emotion. He could be seen crying with his head in his hands as Bev Carlson read her statement.
And it was through tears that he rose from the prisoner’s dock, turned to face Carlson’s family, friends and supporters and said he was sorry.
“I want to offer my deepest apologies to Kiera’s family and friends for what happened,” said Donaldson, whose wife and parents were also in the gallery. “I have thought about it every day since. I couldn’t imagine the feeling and the pain of never being able to see your child again.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t regret what happened. I have to live with that for the rest of my life. I am truly, deeply sorry for the pain I have caused all of you. I know you’ll never forgive me and I will never forgive myself for what happened to Kiera.”
While they appreciated that Donaldson offered up an apology, the Carlson family said his words rang hollow in one respect.
“I do believe he’s remorseful, but was he more remorseful because he was found guilty or remorseful the way it all came out?” said Len Carlson, Kiera-Leigh’s father. “He didn’t accept what he did to Kiera. He’s not apologizing for what he did. I take issue with that.”
Asked if the sentence length was appropriate, Bev Carlson said no amount of jail time given to Donaldson will bring back her daughter.
“He could spend the rest of his life in jail, it’s not going to bring Kiera back,” she said. “We’re not going to have our baby girl. She’s gone.”
Verdurmen said his client and Donaldson’s entire family are very remorseful.
“The family wishes to communicate their profound sorrow of what happened to the Carlson family,” said Verdurmen. “Nobody comes out of this any better. It’s a tragedy for the City of Vernon.”
Verdurmen would not say if he plans to appeal the verdict.