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Judge defers sentencing in motorcyclist's death

Nov 07 2012
Mother of Jana Mahenthiran, Sarojini Mahenthiran (left), receives a hug from his friend Miriam Lambert  outside court at the sentencing hearing of Tracy Dawn Smith in the vehicle death of Jana Mahenthiran. 

Mother of Jana Mahenthiran, Sarojini Mahenthiran (left), receives a hug from his friend Miriam Lambert outside court at the sentencing hearing of Tracy Dawn Smith in the vehicle death of Jana Mahenthiran.

Photograph by: Lyle Stafford , Times Colonist

The family of Jana Mahen-thiran will have to wait a few more weeks to find out the sentence for the woman whose impaired driving caused his death on July 1, 2011.

Western Communities provincial court Judge Robert Higinbotham told Mahenthiran's family members - who had travelled from the Toronto area - that he had to take time to consider submissions by the Crown and defence before making his decision. Higin-botham's decision is expected in two to three weeks.

Mahenthiran was riding his motorcycle north on the Trans-Canada Highway and was hit almost head-on by Tracy Dawn Smith's car when she crossed the centre line near the Spencer Road intersection.

The 47-year-old was on his way to take part in a group motorcycle outing to celebrate Canada Day, Bobbi Bjornholt said outside court. She was one of several of Mahenthiran's motorcyclist friends at court to show support.

Smith, 36, pleaded guilty in June to impaired driving causing Mahenthiran's death. The court heard that Smith has been sober since the incident and has spent the past 15 months at VisionQuest, an addictions recovery centre on the Lower Mainland.

Crown attorney Laureen Nowlan-Card called for a prison sentence of three to five years, while defence attorney Bob Jones argued for two to four years, with the possibility of Smith receiving credit for the time she has spent at VisionQuest.

Nowlan-Card said Mah-enthiran's death has been devastating to his family.

In a victim impact statement read in court, Mahen-thiran's wife, Betty Mahen-thiran, described the shock of learning that her husband of 22 years was dead.

She was still in Toronto at the time, since her husband had moved west to work for a software company and she was to follow after getting matters in order.

"I felt pain like jagged shards of glass ripping through my body," Betty said of hearing the news.

Her life was "forever altered," she said. "Life is empty, painful, without direction."

Smith tearfully read a letter of apology to the court, saying, "There will never be enough words or the right words to express how sorry I am."

She said she thinks of the family every day and is intent on changing the course of her life.

After the hearing, Mahenthiran's brother-in-law Cherry Phillips said the family accepted that the sentencing for Smith was not immediate.

"I think in one way it's a good thing the judge is taking his time," he said. "That says a lot for the information that's been submitted, that it is not a trivial case."

The family will go along with whatever sentence the judge imposes, Betty said, because it won't change the fact that her husband is dead.

Jana's mother, Sarojini Mahenthiran, expressed a similar sentiment about pain of the family's loss: "It's not going to end, it's going to be to my last breath."

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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