Christina Laforge was taken into custody Monday to begin a two-year jail sentence for the death of Troy Charlton.
Laforge, a former Malakwa resident, pleaded guilty in September 2015 to the charge of criminal negligence causing death. Her sentence, delivered on Feb. 1 by Salmon Arm Provincial Court judge Ed de Walle, includes a three-year driving prohibition to begin upon the date of her release.
In his sentencing, de Walle referred to the circumstances of Laforge’s case as unusual and unique, but also tragic and one of the most difficult types of cases a trial judge has to deal with.
“There is no sentence that can be imposed by this court that will in any way adequately compensate for the loss of Mr. Charlton,” de Walle told the court.
Charlton died as a result of injuries sustained from being thrown off the hood of Laforge’s car in the early hours of Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013.
Sicamous RCMP Const. Dusty Miller was on patrol that morning, travelling west on Main Street when he saw a vehicle’s headlights between the west and eastbound lanes coming towards him. The oncoming vehicle then swerved entirely into the westbound lane before returning to the eastbound lane. Suspecting the driver to be impaired, Miller slowed down as the oncoming vehicle drove by. As he was about to pursue the vehicle, Miller witnessed a form lying on the road. He got out of his vehicle and discovered Charlton, whose head was resting in a pool of blood.
Moments later, Laforge, the driver and sole occupant of the passing vehicle, appeared at the scene. Appearing distraught, she asked if Charlton was dead and said she knew first aid.
Charlton, 49, died while en route to hospital.
Laforge was arrested on Aug. 15, and subsequently charged with two counts of impaired driving causing death, two counts of criminal negligence causing death as well as dangerous driving causing death.
During their investigation, police learned Laforge had consumed a significant amount of alcohol prior to Charlton’s death, when she had been attending a party at her sister’s house for Charlton’s birthday.
Charlton was said to have left the party on foot sometime between 1:30 and 2 a.m. Efforts were made to take away Laforge’s car keys and have her stay the night. But Laforge later found her keys and left the party sometime after 2 a.m.
Sometime after 2:30 a.m., a Sicamous Askew’s employee witnessed a white sedan driving very fast on Main Street with a person on the hood. The witness stated it looked as though the person was hanging on for dear life, but was not distraught. The witness then heard the brakes and, soon after, saw police attending to a body on the ground.
Using surveillance video footage from different downtown businesses, police confirmed a white sedan had been driving through town with a black mass on the hood. Using this footage, police were also able to extrapolate the speed at which Laforge was travelling – between 72 and 76 kilometres an hour. From this, police reported Charlton’s body was travelling at about 56 kilometres an hour when he was thrown from the hood of Laforge’s car and struck the pavement.
Laforge told police she had a lot to drink and did not remember leaving the party. Nor did she recall when, where or how Charlton appeared on the hood of her vehicle. She said she didn’t remember what happened after that, she “just wanted him to get away from me, leave me alone.”
De Walle heard victim impact statements from Charlton’s wife and daughter, who were both present during the sentencing. De Walle also heard a letter of apology from Laforge to the deceased’s family, read by Laforge’s lawyer, Melissa Klages.
Arguing Laforge needed to be held accountable, the Crown recommended a sentence of two to three years, a DNA order and a driving prohibition of three to five years. Klages said Laforge had shown remorse for Charlton’s death and has since experienced major depression and social anxiety disorder. Klages said Laforge, 48, has been residing in Revelstoke for the past two years and has been receiving ongoing weekly counselling and support over that period.
“Any disruption in continuity of her care would have a detrimental effect on her well being,” said Klages, noting Laforge is employed as a care provider and has not consumed alcohol for almost two years.
Klages suggested the court impose a suspended sentence or, if the court impose incarceration, that it be up to 15 months. However, Klages asked that if the court impose a two-year jail sentence, it be the full two years and not two years less a day so that Laforge could access federal programming for her psychiatric and medical needs.
De Walle recognized Laforge’s remorse and efforts at rehabilitation, but said the mitigating factors were outweighed by the aggravating factors that put Laforge in the “upper range of moral blameworthiness.” He noted the accused had consumed a significant amount of alcohol and was aware the victim was on her vehicle, yet “did not immediately stop and come to a safe stop so the victim would not be hurt or injured.”
De Walle said two years in prison would serve as a fit and proper sentence.
“I have no control of what happens once you are taken into custody,” de Walle told Laforge. “My expectation is you will receive whatever medical care or treatment you will need…”