by Paige Parsons
The son of a woman killed in a 2016 collision with a drunk driver is calling for tougher sentences in similar cases.
Eric Lestar, 21, was sentenced to four years and three months in prison Monday, to be followed by a 5 year driving prohibition, after he pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing the death of Joann Christou, 50.
Christou was killed on Oct. 24, 2016, when Lestar drove his car into the back of her Nissan Xterra.
Christou's son, Ian Harris, said he and his family are happy with the sentence handed down given the case law presented in court, but said he doesn't see a difference between getting drunk and firing a gun out a window that kills someone, and getting drunk and getting behind the wheel.
"Everybody knows the danger of getting into a vehicle. There's no excuse anymore. There's no unknown about it," Harris said.
Nevertheless, the finalizing of Lestar's sentence is helpful to Harris, who has struggled with depression and post traumatic stress disorder since his mother's death.
"This is what I needed to finish my healing and carry on with my life," he said.
Provincial court Judge Larry Anderson gave Lestar credit for nine days served in pre trial custody.
Speaking outside the courthouse after the sentencing, Lestar's defence lawyer, James Raworth, said his client was prepared for the sentence.
Asked what his client is like, Raworth described him as a nice, normal "21 yr old kid," which he said is one of the common elements that makes impaired driving cases so devastating.
"That's what makes it so tragic, that the victim and the accused person are just normal people. They aren't criminals. They aren't people who spend their life in the criminal world," Raworth said.
According to an agreed statement of facts entered with the court during a November hearing, Lestar, after drinking two and a half pints at a bar, sped through a yellow light at 97 Street and 160 Avenue during busy afternoon rush hour traffic. His Infiniti G37 struck the back of Christou's Nissan, sending the Xterra rolling into a ditch.
His car also ended up in the ditch.
Court heard Christou's vehicle burst into flames. Bystanders and police tried to save her. One witness reported seeing her hit her head on the vehicle's steering wheel. Multiple people heard her screaming as the vehicle burned.
Her death, based on the investigation and an autopsy, was attributed to "multiple injuries."
Investigators determined Lestar's vehicle was travelling between 116 and 129 km/h in the moments before the collision. The speed limit was 70 km/h.
His blood alcohol concentration was found to be more than two times the legal limit.