Why was this QEW driver charged with murder in fatal crash?

Gordon Hall was killed when he flew through the windshield of the car his on-again, off-again girlfriend was driving. Police have charged a 51-year-old Hamilton woman with second degree murder, but aren't saying why they have taken such a rare step.

Gordon Hall, 33, was killed when he was ejected from the car his girlfriend was driving on the QEW

Gordon Hall, 33, was killed when he flew through the windshield of the car his on-again, off-again girlfriend was driving on the QEW. Hall was planning to end their relationship that night, his father says. The 51-year-old driver has been charged with second degree murder. (CBC)

William Hall still hasn’t come to terms with the fact that his son Gordon is never coming home.

“I’m still expecting him to come through the door,” he told CBC Hamilton from his home in Beamsville.

“I can’t believe that he’s gone.”

Gordon Hall, 33, was killed on Jan. 27 when he was thrown from a car during a collision on the QEW heading towards Fort Erie. Now, Hall's on-again, off-again girlfriend has been charged with murder in connection with the case — a rare action in fatal crashes, police and legal experts say.

Police are being vague about why they took such a rare step, but a legal expert said they must be prepared to prove that the person charged was aware of the risks created by their driving and wilfully ignored them.

Hall and his friend Derrick Burgess were both ejected from the vehicle as a result of the crash. Hall went through the windshield and over the median where a passing car hit him. That car didn’t stop, police say. Officers are still searching for the driver.

Hall died at the scene, while Burgess sustained serious but non-life-threatening injuries. He has now been released from hospital.

A 51-year-old Hamilton woman is facing a total of four charges in connection with the crash: second degree murder, attempted murder, criminal negligence causing death and criminal negligence causing bodily harm.

Breakup imminent

The driver was Hall’s on-again, off-again girlfriend, in an often tumultuous relationship, his father told CBC Hamilton. His son was planning to end the relationship for good later that night, he said.

OPP spokesperson Sgt. Dave Woodford told CBC Hamilton that the case is currently under investigation. He would not talk about the specifics that led to the murder and attempted murder charges — but he did say it is “uncommon” for murder charges to be laid in a situation like this.

“It just depends on what the evidence is,” Woodford said. “If the evidence is there, our unit will lay the charges … whether it is in a car or a home.”

“It all depends on what was going on in the car at the time.”

Hall says police haven’t told him much about why murder charges were laid. “The police won’t tell us — but there has to be more to it,” he said.

It’s rare for police to lay murder charges in a case like this, says Simon Stern, a law professor at the University of Toronto. But the charges are “perfectly appropriate” in a case where a person’s behaviour was “more than a trivial contributor to another person’s death,” he said.

To make the charges stick, the prosecution has to prove that the driver knew their actions could cause significant bodily harm or death, but drove recklessly anyway.

“They have to be aware of the danger and wilfully ignore it,” Stern said. “And there might be a good argument to be made for that here.”

'It won't bring him back'

The prosecution could also be hoping the accused would plead guilty to a lesser charge by pressing forward with the sternest one possible at the outset, Stern said. That way, a trial could be avoided.

Hall says he’s pleased to see the prosecution lay such heavy charges – but in the end, it means little because he'll never see his son again. “It won’t bring him back,” he said.

Gordon had been living with his father for about six months before he died. He had a job prospect in Niagara Falls – his father was planning to drive him there on Tuesday for an interview.

“But it never happened,” he said. "He's gone."

His son was a very pleasant, outspoken guy who will be missed, Hall said.

“Most places we went he always met a friend.”

The woman is being held in remand until a Feb. 20 bail hearing at a St. Catharine's court.