MacDonald family shares in court the heartbreak of losing daughter

After more than three years of waiting, grieving mother Andrea MacDonald was able to have her day in court.

After more than three years of waiting, grieving mother Andrea MacDonald was able to have her day in court.

Taking the witness stand, MacDonald gave an emotional victim impact statement in Supreme Court Wednesday describing her life after the death of her oldest daughter Rayel, 20, who was struck and killed by a vehicle driven by an alcohol-impaired Martin Gentles April 22, 2012.

“My husband Dave and I are living a nightmare,” MacDonald said while friends, family and police sat listening in the courtroom.

“Our family died along with Rayel. Our hearts are still beating but we are shells of our former selves.”

Gentles, 30, who is awaiting sentencing on one count of impaired driving and one count of fleeing the scene of a collision in relation to the matter, remained quiet with his head down during the readings, given by Andrea and Rayel’s sister, Rilla-Lee, who sobbed when she gave hers.

“Not many people are lucky enough to be born with a friend, but I was,” Rilla-Lee said. “Any struggle I ever faced I never faced it alone. Rayel was always keeping me strong and supporting me.”

When Rayel died, half of her died, she said.

“The loss of a person so fully a part of yourself and who you are is completely unfathomable and I feel like I’ve lost a limb.”

Her sister’s death is something she will never recover from, she added.

Crown counsellor Julie Dufour asked for a three- to three-and-a-half-year sentence, a one-year prohibition from driving and a secondary DNA test order.

Defence lawyer Ken Walker asked for a conditional sentence to be served in the community with higher than normal fines, noting Gentles is the sole supporter of his family.

In a statement read by Walker, Gentles said he felt so much regret and wished he would have been able to change the outcome.

“Above all else I know what I did was wrong. It is not the person I want to become, nor is it the kind of example I want to set for my son.”

Gentles asked the judge to consider the fact he needs to provide for his family, but at the same time said he realized he must answer for his actions.

“More than anything I wish for closure for this grieving family, my own family and for all those impacted by this terrible accident.”

Gentles recounted a troubled upbringing, coming from a bad childhood environment.

“It has been a constant struggle,” he said. “My mother passed away when I was almost 20 years old, leaving me essentially homeless, working several jobs and dealing with major amounts of grief.”

The decision the night of the collision was a major collapse in judgement, Gentles added.

Later when Justice John D. Truscott asked Gentles if he wanted to say something to the family directly, he stood facing the judge and said quietly if he could take back that night he would.

“I deeply impacted the family and my family. Nothing I can do will ever change that.”

In her victim impact statement made before Gentles’ statement was read, Andrea said her struggle every day has been made worse by the realization there has been no apology and no sadness expressed by Gentles.

“I’ve been saddened by the lack of character the accused has shown toward us and toward Rayel. Someone who is of honour would have never put our family through this,” she said.

Rayel’s death was completely senseless, she added.

“Why didn’t anyone stop them from driving that night? Their friends, anyone at the bar that night, had the power to change the outcome. If they had stopped the accused and his passenger, our beautiful daughter Rayel would still be here on this earth doing what she did the best, loving and giving to others.”

Truscott adjourned the court to reconvene at 3:30 p.m. today, July 8, for sentencing, however, he said he could not promise that he would be ready to sentence Gentles today.

Williams Lake Tribune