Brian King pleads guilty: Hannah Thorne's mother calling for stiffest possible sentence

One of the men accused in the death of teenager Hannah Thorne on a highway near New Harbour, Trinity Bay has pleaded guilty, while the case against a co-accused took a twist Monday.

Co-accused Steven Mercer shakes things up by electing trial by judge alone in Supreme Court

Brian King (left) of Bay Roberts has entered guilty pleas on charges related to the highway death of Hannah Thorne. His co-accused, Steven Mercer of Upper Island Cove, has elected trial at Supreme Court. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

The mother of an 18-year-old girl killed in a street racing incident near New Harbour 14 months ago is calling for the stiffest possible punishment for the man at the wheel that day.

"I'm hoping the judge will want more than they're asking," Gail Thorne told CBC News Monday, just hours after Brian Robert King, 32, of Bay Roberts entered guilty pleas on charges of street racing causing death and dangerous operation of a vehicle causing bodily harm.

King made an appearance in Harbour Grace provincial court, where he changed his plea from not guilty to guilty on three of seven charges, avoiding the need for a painful trial.

"I'm glad we don't have to sit in a room with a room full of despicable people," Gail Thorne added.

Twist as Steven Mercer elects Supreme Court trial

Four other charges against King, including criminal negligence causing death, were not dealt with, suggesting they may be withdrawn as part of a plea bargain when the matter is back before a judge on Oct. 5.

"He killed my daughter senselessly. The accident did not have to happen. They broke the law terribly," Thorne said.

The case against a co-accused, meanwhile, also took a twist Monday.

Eighteen-year-old Hannah Thorne of New Harbour was killed 14 months ago during a collision on Route 73, a highway better known as the New Harbour Barrens. (Facebook)

Steven Ryan Mercer, 30, of Upper Island Cove, who was driving another vehicle, has pleaded not guilty to 14 charges, with a trial scheduled to commence on Oct. 2 in provincial court.

But Mercer's lawyer notified the court Monday that his client wants to be tried at Supreme Court before judge alone, with an arraignment likely to take place in November.

That means a trial will not take place until sometime next year.

Gail Thorne said it's part of the "game" being played by the two accused and their families throughout the ordeal.

"Their humanity does not come out to show remorse," she said, expressing anger that it took more than a year for King to acknowledge his guilt.

Gail Thorne lost her 18-year-old daughter, Hannah, in July 2016 during a street racing incident on Route 73 near their New Harbour, Trinity Bay home. (CBC)

King was at the wheel of a Ford F-150 pickup when it collided head-on at high speed with a much smaller Hyundai car on Route 73 — better known as the New Harbour Barrens — on the afternoon of July 7, 2016.

Thorne was in the passenger seat, and died in the crash. Her 81-year-old grandmother, Gertie Thorne, was at the wheel and was seriously injured.

Steven Mercer facing 14 charges

Sources say Mercer was ahead of King in the oncoming lane, and swerved to avoid a collision at the last second, while King's truck drove head-on into the Hyundai, resulting in a violent explosion of steel, glass and broken bodies.

King will be back in provincial court on Oct. 5 for a reading of the facts in the case, and again on Nov. 16 for a pre-sentence report and possible sentencing.

About the Author

Terry Roberts

CBC News

Terry Roberts is a journalist with CBC's bureau in St. John's.