An Edmonton man who abandoned a fatally injured 16-year-old after a street race ended in a three-car crash was sentenced Friday to 90 days in jail.

Rena Noi Onevathana, 34, was inside a white Lexus on the night of April 23, 2010, as it sped north on 66th Street at 122 km/h. Witnesses said a Mercedes-Benz was speeding alongside the Lexus in the 60 km/h zone, according to an agreed statement of facts.

At the same time, 16-year-old Jeremie LeBlanc made a left turn in his Oldsmobile Alero at the intersection of 66th Street and 31st Avenue. LeBlanc was on his way to Grey Nuns Hospital, where his sister was giving birth.

LeBlanc’s car was struck first by the Lexus, then by the Mercedes. All three cars were destroyed.

Though LeBlanc was fatally injured, Onevathana and other occupants of the Lexus ran off without stopping to help.

“Leaving the scene under these circumstances was a cowardly act,” Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Paul Belzil said. “It was a despicable thing to do. He owed a duty as a citizen to render assistance and he did not do so.”

Belzil stressed that the 90-day sentence was only for leaving the scene. Police investigators were unable to prove if Onevathana was the driver of the Lexus when the crash occurred.

“I am not sentencing him for the death of Mr. LeBlanc,” the judge said.

Onevathana only pleaded guilty to fleeing the scene of an accident. Still, Belzil concluded the crash was the result of a street race.

Police found photographs and a traffic ticket belonging to Onevathana in the Lexus, which he’d borrowed earlier that day from his girlfriend, Hong Nguyen.

The night of the crash, Onevathana lied to Nguyen and said the vehicle had been stolen. Nguyen found that suspicious, as the Lexus had anti-theft features. The day after, Onevathana admitted the truth to Nguyen.

“At no time did he come forward to the police,” Crown prosecutor J.P. Quenneville said.

Onevathana attempted to apologize to the court, but was interrupted by LeBlanc’s mother before she left the courtroom.

“In the end, he couldn’t take responsibility,” Pauline LeBlanc said outside court. “Being sorry means taking responsibility.”

In a victim impact statement, Andrew Stich fondly remembered his friend LeBlanc.

“When I think about Jeremie, it’s hard to imagine him without a smile,” he wrote. “If everyone else was happy, he was happy. The magnitude of his loss is incomprehensible.”

"This sentencing was simply not enough," wrote Julie LeBlanc, Jeremie's sister, in a statement. "The legal process was dragged out and ultimately ended with a weak sentencing. I know nothing will bring my brother back, but this was not enough."

Mona LeBlanc agreed that the sentence fell short of the family's expectations. "I don't feel as if he should have been commended and sentenced with a lesser sentence for having pleaded guilty. I feel as if the justice system has failed."

Onevathana will serve his 90 days on weekends. He is also banned from driving for six months.

Jayant Soni, who is also charged in connection with the fatal crash, is scheduled to go to trial in October 2014 on one count each of dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle by street racing causing death and refusal to provide a breath sample.

Source: Edmonton Journal


Last updated on: 2014-02-15 | Link to this post