A Cole Harbour woman was sentenced to six years in prison Wednesday for driving drunk and causing a series of crashes last summer that killed a retired schoolteacher.
Beverlee Jayne Russell, 54, wiped tears from her eyes as the court heard what happened the night she killed Gary Errol Pfinder of Cole Harbour.
On Aug. 3, Russell pulled her Alero out of a parking lot on Cole Harbour Road and struck a Grand Am, which was travelling westbound on Cole Harbour Road. Three women and a baby girl in that car were injured.
But, Russell did not stop. Instead, she sped up, narrowly avoided a head-on collision but slammed into the back of a car stopped at the next intersection of Cole Harbour Road and Forest Hills Parkway.
Pfinder's Toyota Corolla then hit an MG, and both vehicles were pushed into the path of a Chevy Malibu that was turning left from Forest Hills Parkway onto Cole Harbour Road.
Pfinder, 57, died at the scene. Two females in the MG were seriously injured.
Russell pleaded guilty last month to driving drunk and killing Pfinder. She had originally been charged with manslaughter.
Dartmouth provincial court Judge Brian Gibson sentenced Russell to five years in jail for drunk driving causing the death of Pfinder. He added another year in prison for failing to stop at the accident.
Gibson said if Russell had stopped after the first collision, she would have prevented the loss of life, and a lot of pain and suffering for the victims and their families.
"This is the decision that could have been made to reduce the loss," said the judge, who also banned Russell from driving for 10 years.
Gary Pfinder's relatives supported each other through an emotional day in court.
"You get choked up, it's tough. The better part of a year later, we still miss our brother and we still see it as a terrible and totally unnecessary loss," said Chuck Pfinder.
"Regardless of the length of the sentence, it's not going to bring our brother back."
But Chuck Pfinder said the judge seemed to place more weight on the mitigating factors in the case.
"Apparently, the mitigating factors were taken into account by the judge far more than on the aggravating factors," he said.
"The information released in court was that Ms. Russell was travelling at more than twice the speed limit, [there was] more than twice the legal limit of alcohol in her system and [there was] no attempt to stop or brake prior to the accident."
Crown attorney Paul Carver had asked for a sentence of between eight to 10 years.
"Hopefully, when people who are in that condition are putting in the keys to the car, they will stop and say to themselves, 'This is not worth the risk, this is not worth being responsible for the death of someone in the community,'" Carver said.
Gary Pfinder's family also hope that others are spared this kind of tragedy.
"My concern is that she never hurts anybody else,'" Chuck Pfinder said.