16-year-old Melissa Tomac was killed five years ago, driver only sentenced now

The Burnaby family of a teenager killed in a car accident in which police say alcohol was involved is skeptical that the B.C. Supreme Court will deliver a tough enough sentence to the driver found responsible for the crash.

Christopher Baires is expected to be sentenced today in New Westminster almost four years after he was charged in the death of 16-year-old Melissa Tomac.

In 2010, Baires was behind the wheel of a car with Tomac and two other friends as passengers. The four had spent the day at Sasamat Lake and were on the way home when police said Baires attempted to overtake another car. Baires lost control of the vehicle and ended up slamming into trees that lined the road.

Tomac later died in hospital from her injuries.

Impairment part of original charges

A year later, police charged Baires with impaired and dangerous driving causing death. But according to the Tomac's parents, Mario and Dinah, the case has languished in the courts ever since.

Markita Kaulius, who lost her 22-year-old daughter to a drunk driver in 2011 says sentencing for impaired drivers need to be tougher.

Both have become part of Families for Justice, a group founded by Markita Kaulius whose own daughter Kassandra was killed after an impaired driver collided with her in 2011.

"This family is just one of thousands," said Kaulius who is speaking on the Tomac's behalf. "They have lost their loved one to the actions of an impaired driver and sadly because the system seems to take so long to get to court they have been waiting for five years."

Today's sentencing hearing for Baires follows a guilty plea for three of the nine original charges. The charges involving impairment have been dropped. The family has been told by crown prosecutors that they will seek a sentence of 22 months in jail.

Expected sentence not appropriate

"The sentencing is not appropriate for the severity of the crime," said Kaulius.

"We believe that these are vehicular homicides and should be treated as such and the sentencing should be appropriate. I mean if someone came out and killed someone with a knife or a gun they'd be looking at seven to ten years and we have seen sentences anywhere from $1,500 fines, $2,000 fines, 90 days to be served on weekends."

Kaulius and the Tomacs have been pushing hard to gain support for a federal private member's bill that could change Canada's criminal code when it comes to deaths caused by impaired drivers.

Bill C-652 was introduced by Conservative Member of Parliament Mark Warawa from Langley B.C. in February. It would make vehicular homicide as a result of impairment an indictable offence with a possible penalty of life in prison.

In the House of Commons Warawa said that impaired driving is the number one cause of criminal death in Canada every year and the toll of losing loved ones devastate families and friends of the victims

After Melissa Tomac died, her parents moved out of their home to a new community because the pain of living in the neighbourhood was too painful.

"To go past that intersection and to see, you know it's a constant reminder," said Kaulius. "I mean every day is a reminder. I mean she had a bedroom down the hall. She was 16. She still lived at home."

Source: CBC News BC


Last updated on: 2015-04-06 | Link to this post