HARBOUR GRACE, NL — The man whose actions behind the wheel resulted in the death of an 18-year-old New Harbour woman is likely looking at a federal prison sentence.
The duration of the sentence rests in the hands of Judge Bruce Short, who heard submissions on sentencing Monday at Harbour Grace Provincial Court.
The judge also heard emotional statements from friends and family impacted by Hannah Thorne's death July 7, 2016 on the New Harbour Barrens. He also heard from Brian Robert King, the 32-year-old Bay Roberts man who was driving the vehicle that hit the car Hannah and her grandmother were in.
Almost two months ago, King pleaded guilty to three of the seven charges he faced — street racing causing death, criminal negligence causing bodily harm and breach of a probation order.
His co-accused, Steven Ryan Mercer, has pleaded not guilty and elected to have his matter go to trial at Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court in St. John's.
The court heard impassioned victim impact statements from friends and family, most of whom read them in person. Gail Thorne, Hannah's mother, addressed the amount of suffering her family has gone through since the girl's death.
"I don't think you can truly understand unless you go through this yourself," she said Monday morning. "My future has been forever altered. Hannah has no future. Hannah is dead. She will never be a part of our lives again, and there's nothing we can do to fix it."
Hannah's death has taken an emotional and physical toll on her mom, who suffers from migraines and depression and has lost 40 pounds over the last year and a half.
"Instead of living, I'm slowly dying inside. I grieve every day, every milestone, every holiday and it's constantly on my mind."
Christmas was always her daughter's favourite holiday, and that made this time last year particularly painful for Gail and her husband Levi, who ultimately kept to themselves on Christmas Day. Their son Cody went elsewhere.
"Our son couldn't bear to be in our house on Christmas morning 2016. My husband and I spent it alone. How could we get up Christmas morning and continue on with traditions when Hannah's not there?"
In his own statement, read by the Crown prosecutor, Levi Thorne said it's hard to handle daily tasks sometimes as his mind wanders and thinks of Hannah. He was critical of King and questioned his level of remorse.
"Brian King showed no respect for anybody that was on the road that day. Hannah's death was fully preventable. It didn't have to happen. His fun killed my beautiful 18-year-old daughter, and I feel … if he could have driven away after the collision that day, he would have.
“The lack of remorse he has shown to us, Hannah, our families and the court system … haunts my soul. To watch my wife and son suffer is equally haunting."
Hannah's parents, as well as others who provided victim impact statements, asked that King be sentenced to the fullest extent of the law.
Crown prosecutor Richard Deveau requested a sentence of three-and-a-half to four years for King, plus a 10-year driving prohibition order.
While Deveau acknowledged King never intended to cause harm, he said his actions were grossly negligent. He drew attention to the speed King was traveling at (130 kilometres per hour five seconds prior to impact) and the fact he had two prior offenses under the Highway Traffic Act for speeding.
A witness reported seeing King's vehicle narrowly avoid a collision on another stretch of the New Harbour Barrens prior to the accident.
Deveau suggested this should have caused King to cease driving so recklessly in this instant, yet he continued onwards. The fatal head-on collision occurred in a no-passing zone at the crest of a hill. Hannah's grandmother was injured and spent months in hospital recovering.
Catherine Boyde, representing King, asked for a two-to three-year sentence and a two-to five-year driving prohibition order. She indicated her client took responsibility for his actions by pleading guilty and was remorseful. She highlighted King's limited record prior to the incident and noted none of those events were at the same level of seriousness as the charges he's pleaded guilty to now.
After his lawyer finished speaking, King took a moment to share some words. Before he did so, Gail Thorne quickly left the courtroom.
"I want to take this opportunity today to say I'm deeply sorry," he said, before taking a long pause, "for the pain I have caused to each and every one of Hannah's family and friend's lives forever. I know she was loved by so many people, and it's a struggle daily because of my decisions. I can't begin to imagine what you go through every day, because I have not stopped to think that suddenly this would happen."
King went on to express hope that the outcome of his case will give some closure to family and friends of Hannah.
The matter will return to Harbour Grace Provincial Court Dec. 12 for a decision on sentencing.