Family shares sorrow at impaired driver’s sentencing hearing

Vince Bear and Raelene Adam, together with their younger son, Hayden, on the steps of Prince Albert's Court of Queen's Bench. Arthur White-Crummey/Daily Herald

A Muskoday man will spend nearly 30 months in prison for running over an 11-year-old boy while impaired on anti-anxiety medication.

The family of Jared Bear shared their grief at the sentencing hearing of Gordon Crain on Friday. Jared died on July 26, 2014 while biking with friends along a ditch near Muskoday First Nation. Crain drove off the road and struck the group. He hit one boy’s bike, and then careened into Jared, who struck the windshield and flew over the vehicle. Jared was transported to hospital, and later pronounced dead.

Crain sat still on Friday, his eyes closed, as the boy’s mother read her statement to the court.

“He was 19 days short of his birthday, and instead of planning a joyous day we had to plan what no parent ever should,” Raelene Adam said. “This was the day my life became a dream-like reality.”

Adam said she’s still stuck on that day, the day she was “robbed” of her son.

“I struggle daily with the pain, because not a single day goes by without my son on my mind, not a single minute,” she said. “I wonder vaguely how he would look today. I wonder how his voice would sound.”

Crown prosecutor Keith Amyotte said that Crain was “visibly intoxicated” when police arrived at the scene. He had “glossy eyes” and “small pupils.” Amyotte said that subsequent tests showed that Crain had taken a depressant, but not alcohol. They later found codeine in his system.

Crain’s lawyer, Mary McAuley, said that her client took a single pill of Clonazepam – a prescription medication for anxiety – before getting behind the wheel.

The two lawyers had come to an agreement of sorts in a bid to avoid trial. Amyotte limited his sentencing recommendation to three years in a federal penitentiary. McAuley was calling for two years less a day in a provincial jail.

Almost 50 people gathered in the courtroom for the sentencing hearing. After Adam left the stand, Jared’s father, Vince Bear, took his turn.

“The loss of a child is the most devastating experience a parent can go through,” he said. “I’m just an empty shell.”

He said he can’t even bear seeing happy families. Memories of Jared surge up, “like a slap in the face.”

“Seeing children playing triggers images of Jared lying so still,” he said. “We will never experience his love again.

“My heart continues to scream: why, why my son in his youth? Vince asked. “How can we deal with his loss?”

Dakota Bear was one of the boys with Jared the day he died. He spoke of the “traumatizing” impact the experience has left, all these years later.

“I was afraid of every car that drove by,” he said. “Because I thought I was going to get struck.”

The judge accepted a pile of victim impact statements, but only a few spoke in court. When the last one left the stand, Crain, who rarely, if ever, opened his eyes, grabbed a tissue to dry his tears.

He spoke only briefly, offering an apology to the family.

“I just want to say sorry to the family of Jared Bear,” he said. “I’m very sorry.”

Hours later, Judge Currie read his reasons to the court. He acknowledged that Crain has a criminal record, including two past impaired driving convictions. But he pointed out that those incidents date back about 20 years.

But he said he also must take into account the tragedy of the case.

“I recognize that the time Mr. Crain will spend in prison will keep him from his family for some time,” he said. “I recognize too though that Jared Bear has been kept away from his family and friends forever.”

Currie settled on a sentence of 30 months in prison, with 11 days credit for time served. He also imposed a five-year driving ban.

Adam said she was disappointed with the sentence.

“We don’t feel that justice was served for the loss of our son,” she said. “It’s just a big slap in the face with that sentence that we got.”

She said that she doesn’t think Crain’s apology was genuine.

“Everything that he’s done so far is just to seek a shorter sentence,” said Adam. “I don’t think he understands or grasps how much pain he’s put us through.”

Adam said that she will never forget her son.

“This bond is so strong that not even death can break it,” she said. “He was the most loving child anyone could have asked for and I’m so grateful to the creator for letting me be his mother, even for a short time.”