No jail for killer Winnipeg driver
A Winnipeg woman who killed two Manitoba men in a devastating crash more than two years ago will not go to jail for her dangerous driving.
Lucy Muthoka, 53, was handed a suspended sentence and two years of probation Friday in the deaths of William Halcrow, 57, and James Ross, 58, on the evening of June 25, 2008.
The two friends were killed after being struck by an erratically driven Subaru Forester near the corner of Donald Street and St. Mary Avenue. They were in Winnipeg from their home community of Cross Lake to attend medical appointments.
After a prolonged police investigation, Muthoka, the Subaru's driver, was arrested and charged with two counts of criminal negligence causing death on Dec. 11, 2008.
The Crown stayed the more serious charges in exchange for her guilty pleas to dangerous driving causing death.
'It's like getting kicked some more when you already suffered.'—Marlene CastelThe conditions of Muthoka's probation include performing 240 hours of community service work, writing a letter of apology to the families of the victims and the community of Cross Lake and participating in mediation with the families if they request it in the future.
She is forbidden from driving in Canada for the next 10 years.
She walked out of court at about 2:30 p.m. CT after signing her probation order.
Sudden accelerationMuthoka was coming out of the Millennium Library's parkade when her car suddenly accelerated, according to a brief summary of the Crown's facts of the case told to provincial court Judge Brent Stewart.
She slammed into a truck, swerved across a street and struck the two men, who died at the scene despite efforts by paramedics and passersby to save their lives.
Another man, David Matsubara, was injured, but survived.
Halcrow and Ross's families travelled to Winnipeg to attend Friday's sentencing hearing. Members of each family admitted being disappointed at the sentence Muthoka was given.
'It was lenient for her but not lenient for us.'—Betty Ross"It's like getting kicked some more when you already suffered. There's no words I could use except that I'm very disappointed," said Marlene Castel, Halcrow's sister.
Ross's sister, Betty Ross, told CBC News that it appeared all efforts were being made during the court hearing to shield Muthoka from punishment.
"It almost felt that everybody was cushioning her, and that they were lifting her up and of course, the judge took that," Ross said.
"Sure enough, it was lenient for her but not lenient for us."
At a prior hearing, court heard that Muthoka had been sent threatening notes about the deadly crash. The nature of the notes was not revealed in court.
Muthoka spoke in court and apologized for what happened, but the victims' families said they were upset she didn't look at them while saying she was sorry.
Pretty biased headline CBC. This woman did not kill anybody intentionally. It was a complete accident which could have happened to anybody. Labeling her as a "killer" is really inappropriate. Plus, saying "no jail" makes it appear as if that type of sentence was expected. This woman has to live with the details of this horrific tragedy for the rest of her life and expresses sincere remorse. I think that is enough punishment. Prison for this woman would be considered cruel and would serve no purpose.
Her sense of guilt is enormous-- driver pleads guilty to killing two men
An inexperienced Winnipeg driver who accidentally hit the gas pedal instead of her brake offered a tearful apology to the families of two pedestrians she killed in a chaotic downtown crash.
Lucy Muthoka, 52, was handed a two-year suspended sentence with probation Friday after pleading guilty to dangerous driving causing death for the June 2008 incident near the intersection of Donald Street and St. Mary Avenue.
William Halcrow, 57, and James Ross, 58, were killed instantly after being hit by Muthoka's Subaru Forester. The two friends were from the Cross Lake reserve in northern Manitoba and were in Winnipeg for medical treatment.
"God being my witness, I never intended to harm. Words fail to express how sorry I am," a tearful Muthoka told a large courtroom gathering, which included family and friends of the two men. "I am more sorry than the world will understand. I will continue to pray for the healing of everyone affected by this. May God meet the needs of everyone whose lives were changed."
Crown attorney Zane Tessler said Muthoka was an "infrequent" driver who had just completed five refresher courses after purchasing a new car. She had placed a "novice driver" warning sign at the back of the vehicle.
Her driving instructor later told police she wouldn't have had the skills to pass a driving test following her first lesson, but likely would have following completion of the course.
While exiting the Millennium Library parkade just after 4:30 p.m., Muthoka suddenly accelerated rapidly, striking several vehicles and people at the crowded intersection during rush-hour traffic. Muthoka also went up on the sidewalk and hit a fire hydrant, which caused hundreds of litres of water to quickly flood the area. That hampered the police investigation because it was difficult to recreate the scene and figure out the sequence of events.
Several witnesses -- who narrowly avoided being hit -- tried frantically to revive the two gravely injured men lying in the rapidly rising waters, as did firefighters and paramedics. A third man was pinned between two cars and suffered serious injuries, as did the drivers of two other vehicles.
"The degree of resulting carnage was substantial," Tessler said.
Muthoka wasn't intoxicated or distracted by anything such as a cellular phone, court was told. It was a "perfect summer day" with clear skies and dry roads.
Muthoka had no criminal record and is a religious single mother who has spent the past decade working for Agriculture Canada.
She is originally from Kenya and serves as an elder within the local community. More than 30 people filed letters of support on her behalf.
"Her sense of guilt is enormous," defence lawyer Saul Simmonds said. "She goes to sleep at night praying for Mr. Ross and Mr. Halcrow and their families. She wakes up praying for them. This is a decent, honest, hard-working person. It's the nightmare for everyone who gets behind the wheel."
The families of both victims made emotional impact statements in court, describing how both men were loved and respected by their community. They were joined by the Cross Lake chief and council members.
"The pain of loss is excruciating," said Ross' sister, Betty. "To lose someone in such a sudden, unexpected and inhumane way."
Provincial court Judge Brent Stewart said the case was especially difficult given the tragic circumstances, Muthoka's obvious lack of intent and her glowing background. He said no punishment can undo the damage caused or bring the victims back.
"This is not a court of vengeance," said Stewart. Outside court, several family members expressed anger at the suspended sentence and questioned the sincerity of Muthoka's apology.
As part of her penalty, Stewart ordered Muthoka to perform 240 hours of community service and banned her from driving for a 10-year period.
Muthoka also expressed a desire to meet with the families of the victims and make a charitable donation on their behalf, if they wished.
I think we all need to step back and try to understand this was an accident. This could happen to ANYONE! I for one would be horrified if I ever caused something like this and I think we need to remember "there but for the grace of god go I" I feel terrible for everyone involved. So sad.
I am seriously saddened to see some of these remarks. The article clearly stated she was an unexperienced driver that had recently taken a refresher course. She may have gotten her licence 15 years ago and hasn't really driven since.
She is obviously distraught and appears to be a hardworking, charitable woman.
I'd hate to see my fellow winnipegers stand in judgement of me if I were to make a mistake. It appears that everyone should go to jail for everything when you read these boards.
Wow you people are so unsympathetic. There was no intent by this woman whatsoever. It was a frak accident. She is paying for it inside her soul. I can't imagine the guilt of killing two people when all you were trying to do was exit a parkade. she stepped on the wrong pedal by mistake.
My question is if she was such a bad or inexperienced driver, how did she pass her road test? There lies the problem in this case. It's the womans fault but indirectly only. There is no way you can send this person to jail for vechiular manslaughter as there was no intent on doing anything incriminating with her vechicle. She was not driving recklessly-and by that I mean intentionally speeding, blowing stop signs etc. she was following the rules of the road and put her foot on the wrong pedal by mistake. Enough said. Jail time, give me a break
There are two reasons to put people in jail:
#1 - to keep dangerous criminals from harming society. This was an accident, regardless of whether the woman was a poor driver or whether it was a genuine accident. Taking her license away for ten years (and the obvious emotional guilt she has) is enough to keep her from harming others; and
#2 - to serve as a warning to others that this kind of action isn't acceptable. I don't know about the rest of you, but whether this woman is put behind bars for 25 years, or whether she walks free, it doesn't stop me from either having an automobile accident, nor does it stop inexperienced drivers.
Our justice system is flooded with criminals, so putting her in jail takes a bed away from real repeat offenders that continually disobey our laws. This woman did something awful, and she has to live with that for the rest of her life. I don't even agree with jail time when it's drinking and driving from a remorseful person, let alone just an inexperienced driver.
Keep this woman off the road, let her do the community service, that in itself is enough punishment and will do the best for society. Putting her in jail will not bring the dead back, nor will teach her or anyone else a lesson not to have an auto accident.
It's very unfortunate, but accidents happen.
in this case, people shouldn't judge her. It could happen to ANY ONE OF US.
This was an accident which could have happened to anybody. Anyone can make the mistake of hitting the gas pedal instead of the brake. It's tragic that two individuals were killed, but we have to understand that this killing was completely unintentional. This woman had no intention to harm or kill anybody and therefore, should not be punished. I am saddened and shocked to read the many vengeful, and unsympathetic comments towards this woman. She is obviously distraught, expressed genuine remorse, has no prior criminal record, is a single mother, religious, charitable and hardworking woman. It appears that everyone should go to jail for everything when you read these comments. How can we be so unsympathetic?
This tragic killing of two individuals, was a complete accident which could have happened to anybody. This woman hit the gas pedal instead of the brake. She had no intention to harm or kill anyone. This was an unintentional killing. I am saddened to read the many vengeful and unsympathetic comments towards this woman by the public. She is obviously distraught, expressed genuine remorse, has no prior criminal record, is a single mother and a religious, hard working and charitable woman who now has to live with extreme guilt over what happened for the rest of her life. That is enough punishment.