Young woman acquitted of dangerous driving

Rosie
Rosie Gillingham
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Victim’s family outraged at outcome of emotional trial

Seconds after the verdict, sobs and screams resounded through the courtroom in St. John’s.

“Oh my God!” Kimberley Clowe shouted from the back of the court after Natasha Stapleton was found not guilty on all charges.

Stapleton had been at the wheel when Clowe’s daughter, 23-year-old Kayla Reid, was thrown 35 metres clear of the car and into the woods after the car went off the road on Blackhead Road in St. John’s.

Reid, who had a young daughter, died of a broken neck.

Stapleton had been charged with dangerous driving causing death and two counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm after the single-car accident on Oct. 3, 2009.

Clowe had been a fixture in the courtroom throughout the trial, holding a picture of her daughter and becoming visibly emotional at times.

But on Thursday, when Judge David Orr handed down his decision, Clowe could no longer hold her emotions in check.

“You can’t even say you’re sorry,” she shouted to Stapleton, who quickly left the courtroom in tears after the proceedings.

“You can’t even say you’re f---ing sorry.”

"There’s the justice system for you,” her husband, Tyrone Clowe,  added.

“Unbelievable.”

The couple then yelled at reporters to go away, saying they’ve been through 14 months of hell.

Two other passengers, Selina Thomlyn and Heather Hiscock, also hurriedly left the courtroom.

Both young women were seriously injured in the accident.

Thomlyn, who had been in the front seat, suffered bleeding on the brain, a collapsed lung, a bruised heart and kidney, optic nerve damage, a mangled right arm which required extensive surgery, and serious ligament damage in her knees.

She still wears an eye patch and has trouble remembering the incident.

Hiscock — who was in the backseat with Reid — briefly lost consciousness after the car crashed, but managed to climb up the embankment and flag down a motorist.

She testified during the trial that Stapleton was driving up to 120 km/h at one point.

Stapleton, who had only had her driver’s licence for a month, told the police they were going for a drive to Cape Spear when her earring got caught in her hair. She said she flicked her hair to dislodge it and her glasses fell off.

“Oh my God!” Kimberley Clowe, mother of victim Kayla Reid, shouted from the back of the court

Police determined the car was travelling at 127 km/h when Stapleton lost control. It swerved across the road, hit a guard rail and went

airborne, flying down over an embankment, snapping off trees and coming to a smashing halt in the woods.

The judge said, under the circumstances, speed alone was not enough to constitute dangerous driving.

“I’m satisfied she was speeding,” Orr said, “but there was no other evidence that she operated the vehicle inappropriately in any other way.”

He said while Stapleton is “undoubtedly” civilly responsible, there was no evidence to suggest she was criminally responsible.

He said Stapleton had a momentary lapse of attention and she was driving a vehicle with a number of mechanical defects which she did not know about.

Defects in vehicle

An expert testified during the trial that those defects — which included a broken left sway bar, an inoperable anti-lock brake system and an under-inflated front tire — may have contributed to the accident.

Defence lawyer Randy Piercey told reporters it was one of the most heartbreaking cases he’s ever been involved in, with no winner.

“Natasha took off. There was a lot of drama in the courtroom,” he said.

“How could you feel good? Obviously, you’re relieved, but there’s no good about this case at all.”

He said it was difficult for everyone.

“Every day at 10 o’clock, people started to cry and they didn’t stop crying until 4:30 p.m.,” he said.

“Twenty-eight years in (legal practice) and I’ll always remember this case.

“Because it was a young girl in a situation that many, many people have been in — driving too fast — and had an accident and somebody died.

“We all drive too fast, on occasion, and are lucky enough to get home.”

 

rgillingham@thetelegram.com

Geographic location: Blackhead Road

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Recent comments

  • Jim
    December 02, 2010 - 12:49

    What a very sad situation. For all you people out there that want this young girl condemned, get a grip. Nothing will bring back the poor girl who has lost her life but in the name of god, this wasn't intentinal and hopefully your own child doesn't make a grave mistake and are put under this same scrutiny. Unless maybe you are someone that has never in your lifetime or your childrens lifetime made a mistake. Unfortunatly this one had dire circumstances. She wasn't as lucky as most of us have been at least at some point of our lives. Leave her alone.

  • Mag
    November 29, 2010 - 11:23

    You people who think tash is a murderer DISGUST ME. do you not have anything better to do than sit around on your lazy butts and go on and on about something that you werent even involved in! seriously people GROW UP. moveon with your lives. What if someday you get into an accident and kill someone. how would you feel if i wrote about how your a murderer! it astounds me how grown people can sit here and write slander about a girl they dont even know! if you ask me you filthy wagon jumpers are the murderers. murderers of a girl who was as much a victim as everyone else. I hope someday you all grow up and learn to mind your own business. do none of you have children or jobs? do you sit here all day writing about something you have nothing do to do with!? were you there? were you in that car? i think not. grow up. get a job and carry on wth your lives.

  • myname
    November 27, 2010 - 19:24

    seriously people sending natasha stapelton to jail, or house arrest or whatever you guys wanted is not going to change anything. unfortunately its not gonna bring back the young girl who died or heal anyoone that was injured. natasha has suffered enough like the other girls and the families of the young girls natasha and her family has also suffered and grieved with these other young women. i think you people should think about that.

  • nooneknows
    November 27, 2010 - 18:52

    im very pleased with judge david orr's decision. im not scared to drive on the roads knowing natasha stapelton is still on the roads. it was a accident. all the girls were friends and im sure it was just a joy ride that ended in a tradgedy, unfortunately. sadly kayla passed away and the three other girls were injured and were sent to hospital, so they were all hurt, including natasha. like kayla natasha is also a mother, she also has a right to be there and watch her child grow up. im sure the three girls were not forced into the car and go for a drive with natasha, they are all adults and made their own decisions. its very sad how this ended but i dont know why everyone is so upset with natasha. natasha is human just like all of us, you know she is upset she lost one of her friends and injured two others, if i were in her shoes id be afraid to go near the familys that i hurt with all the anger and ganging up on her you are all doing. i dont think we should seek revenge on natasha, cause like the other three girls and their families she has suffered and hurt just as much the last 14 months as they did. the proof was there that natasha didnt mean this, she was a new driver with a piece of crap car she owned for one day and not knowing it was a crappy car i think judge orr made a great decision and i dont think you guys should be ganging up on natasha like you all are cause she is hurting just like everyone else.

  • thisiscrazy
    November 27, 2010 - 12:34

    i know natasha personally and i know this girl is going through hell over this. there is so much that people dont know about her. i know that this poor girl got so depressed over this incident that she lost her job and many friends. this was only an accident. its absolutly rediculus the way people are getting on. accidents happen. j ust because the justice system doesnt go in some people favor they get all "our justice system is not right". how can you say she murdered someone? your acting like she meant to do it? she clearly didnt wake up that day and say "hey im gonna go kill someone today". people need to wake up and realize that this could of happened to anyone. and i do recall a couple of years ago that someone was speeeding up "normans hill" and flipped their car over in the exact same some and noone charged anyone because it was an accidnt. natasha is too afraid to say she is sorry for what happened because of thee way everyone is getting on with her. how would you feel if you know you did this and people were calling you non stap saying they were going to kill you? oh ye must of have forgotten about the death threats she had received. personally i think this should have never went to court in the first place.

  • Robbie
    November 27, 2010 - 00:16

    The fact of the matter is as follows: The intention of the driver in this matter was to drive to Cape Spear in her new car with her friends and nothing more. She did not have a scheme planned to harm her friends, her intentions were a night out with them, unfortunately this tragedy occurred, however she in no way, in my opinion, and in the opinion of the presiding judge, set out to harm these passengers. It was an accident, a tragedy, and nothing more... why do people want to punish this young girl for an accident? Its crazy!

  • Anonymous
    November 26, 2010 - 21:49

    The justice system isn't about revenge. This was an accident, and I doubt that this girl will ever make the same mistake again. I certainly don't feel less safe knowing that Natasha Stapleton is still free in the community, and there's certainly no need of sending her to prison, which will cost the taxpayers money. She screwed up and now her friend is dead, she;s been punished enough. These parents know that too, they're just looking for revenge. Sorry, the justice system doesn't and shouldn't cater to that.

  • John Smith
    November 26, 2010 - 18:05

    What they should do is get a good lawyer and start the civil case as soon as possible. Every cent this person makes for the rest of her life should go to the family of the dead woman.

  • Driver
    November 26, 2010 - 17:15

    How can you say that going over double the speed limit is not dangerous driving? The rules of the road are there for a reason. If the justice system is going to ignore this, then that means that everyone who gets a speeding ticket can go to the judges and say that they are not paying and don't deserve demerit points gone because apparently speeding is not a crime. There is a family that now has no daughter, a daughter with no mother, and two other young women who will be scarred for life both physically and emotionally. Sometimes I wish that we had the same justice system as the US. At least then she would have been charged with vehicular manslaughter or something of that nature.

  • Tally
    November 26, 2010 - 14:04

    I agree with the article that this was a horrible accident, but the fact is she is responsible for the speeding, but not CRIMINALLY responsible for the death. As there was no intent. It was an accident. He noted she is civially responsible, which means they may now take this to civil court and sue. (not that i am comparing, but if you all recall, OJ won in court, but then lost in civil court). I am sure that the gals were laughing etc and all having fun, and that it could have been any one of them driving. I think the person who also sold her the car should be sued by the families, as he willingly and knowinly sold a melon.

  • bob
    November 26, 2010 - 12:45

    its not right.. my heart is with kimmy and her family... for heather and selina.... what they r going throught it one of the hardest thing to get over..but for Natasha Stapleton to be found not guilty on all charges wtf.... like i get the car had problems but as a driver you should know when your car is not running right... and she is responceable for the people in her car that teach that to you at driving school.. so how is it she can walk away from all of this? and not to say sorry to kimmy, just walked way... like how do you sleep at night knowing what you have done Natasha.... i think you should of said sorry... at the end of the day you can go home to your family and kid... kimmy goes to her house... her house not her home because her house is not a home with out kayla.... the justice system here sucks .... the old men that run it need to change some of the rules... you brake in to someones house and tell them your going to kill them you go to jail.... but it seams you buy a shitty car and kill someone and you walk away free not a single charge no house arest no nothing its not right

  • Santo
    November 26, 2010 - 11:37

    Some disagree that she got off with it as she has to live with this the rest of her life. I have to disagree with that.... Has she shown remorse? Has she said I'm sorry? I don't believe her story one bit, but I guess as long as it makes her sleep at night, then that's fine. And I'm sure she sleeps at night just fine. To say she has to live with this the rest of her life is to assume that she thinks she did something wrong. To beleive she did something wrong would at least lead her to say "I'm sorry". Now the judge has cleared her of wongdoing by finding her not guilty. So now she gets to go one thinking "it wasn't my fault!" So now she sleeps even better at night. Does she have any life altering injuries like one of her victims? Did she spend any time in hospital? All she is out is the 1000 bucks she paid for the car. The girl who died had a child. That child now has no mother. Another mother had to bury her child. The other girls has life long injuries. But all Natasha is out is 1000 bucks. If she at least said" I'm sorry, I was driving too fast, I was wrong", I might have some sympathy for her. But she insisted she was doing 65, not 127, and that her glassess fell off...holy crap, and the judge bought it. Do you think she learned a lesson? What lesson? The only lesson was that if you stick to your story, and shed a few tears, the kind judge will go "there there, I know you didn't mean it". Like I said, to assume she will pay for this the rest of her life, is to assume she believes she did wrong....I don't think she believes that at all. Its times like this I really hope there is a god, and that some day she will have to answer to the one who really knows what happened, and have to look Kayla in the eye and explain to her why she didn't get to see her child grow up.

  • Heather French
    November 26, 2010 - 09:26

    Nobody got off with anything here.I think this girl will be paying the price for a very long time to come. I don't think she intended any harm to anyone. She made mistakes that she most likely will never make again. I feel for all concerned. There is no winner here.

  • Robbie
    November 26, 2010 - 09:09

    How about we leave this young girl who was also a victim alone and allow her to live her life

  • Flang
    November 26, 2010 - 09:01

    Nearly one third of serious traffic accidents can be attributed to excessive rate of speed, and the judge said speeding was "not enough to constitute dangerous driving" ?! ... wasn't it that he'd like to send a message to the public that speeding need not to be taken seriously and you can continue to drive as fast as you like ... ?

  • Jane
    November 26, 2010 - 08:23

    This accident was tragic. There is no doubt about that. However it was just that. I don't believe we know the whole story. These girls all got into this vehicle willingly. Did they voice concerns to the driver about her speed or where they all having a great time laughing and carring on? Anyone one of those girls could have been driving - unfortunately this time it was Stapleton. It's all fun and games until someone gets hurt and then the blame lays only on the driver that night. Who is to say they were not out the night before driving the same speed but were lucky enough to make it home. Just because some of us who have been careless haven't been caught does not make us any less guilty.

  • Graham
    November 26, 2010 - 08:12

    The Newfie justice system strikes again - where the innocent go to jail and criminals go home. She had her drivers license for a month and thought she could race over the road to Cape Spear in a car she wasn't familiar with. Give me a break. The car didn't have as many defects as our justice system does.

  • Beaner
    November 26, 2010 - 07:57

    How does driving double the posted speed limit not constitute dangerous driving?? She claimed to only being driving 67 kilometres per hour when, in fact, she was driving 127 kpm, as discovered by accident scene investigators. How can the judge look at that blatantly fabricated statement (read: lie) and not find her criminally responsible? The woman was caught in a CLEAR LIE - an obvious attempt at escaping punishment! That, within itself, should be seen as an admission of guilt. Our justice system is a joke.

  • Missus
    November 26, 2010 - 07:57

    How is this justice at work. The defects to the car did not cause her to drive at 127km an hour, that was her doing. How she can not be held responsible for the lost and permanent damage she's caused is beyond me. My heart goes out the the families affected.

  • Joe
    November 26, 2010 - 07:56

    Why should the judge be replaced? Because you read a short article summarizing the details of the case without seeing or hearing any of the evidence and decided for yourself? There's a criminal standard for a reason. All a judge can do is apply the facts to the law and make a determination. If you don't like the outcome, speak to your legislator.

  • hockeyfan9087
    November 26, 2010 - 07:38

    Justice System!? HA there is no justice system anymore..... People like Natasha Stapleton getting off scott free..... I just don't understand it. And probably never will.... Someday hopefully justice will be served

  • Kelly
    November 26, 2010 - 07:32

    I think this is crazy and sets a dangerous precedent for others who may speed and cause death or harm. Speeding IS dangerous driving, 2 girls will never be the same, 1 girl is dead, and the accused is still out there driving around. :( I am not sure if this case can be called for appeal, and not sure if the families involved want to drag themselves through it again....

  • billybear
    November 26, 2010 - 07:24

    It's obvious that this judge should be replaced.