'That's my son': Mother of Brady Francis testifies about finding him lying on side of road
Trial of man charged in 2018 hit-and-run death of 22-year-old from Elsipogtog First Nation started Monday
The last time Jessica Perley and Dana Francis spoke with their son Brady, they could hear a vehicle racing by over the phone.
''Gee, that sounded close. [It] sounded like a car," Perley can remember her husband saying.
Perley was the first witness called to testify Monday during the trial of Maurice Johnson, 57, who is accused of the hit-and-run death of Brady Francis, 22, of Elsipogtog First Nation, almost two years ago.
Johnson, of Saint-Charles, has pleaded not guilty to failing to stop at the scene of an accident that caused a person's death on Feb. 24, 2018.
That night, as she and her husband arrived at the scene, Perley said she saw her son lying face up on the side of the road and black skid marks on the pavement.
She was praying her son was still alive.
But Perley knew her son was dead when RCMP and paramedics didn't immediately place him on a stretcher or cover him with a blanket.
It was then she bent over, kissed him on the forehead and said goodbye, an emotional Perley told the Moncton courtroom.
The trial is scheduled to continue Tuesday morning.
The crash happened shortly after 9 p.m., on Saint-Charles South Road in Saint-Charles, about 12 kilometres north of Elsipogtog and about 100 kilometres north of Moncton.
Perley said she felt anxious on the day of the crash. To calm her down, her husband Dana took her out for nachos after work and then they headed to CC's Entertainment Center on the reserve.
On their way home, around 8 p.m., Perley received a phone call from her son asking for a ride home.
When Perley asked where he was, he said that he didn't know and that he was "in the middle of nowhere." Then Francis said he was in Sainte-Anne, a village about 315 kilometres northwest of Elsipogtog.
But Francis didn't know why he was there.
Brady wanted to come home
Perley also remembers her son hiccuping over the phone. She figured he had been drinking — something he enjoyed doing at social gatherings.
But he wanted to come home.
Minutes later, the couple was able to track their son down by texting one of Francis's close friends, who said he was in Saint-Charles. Perley texted Francis to let him know they were on their way.
During the drive, Perley and her husband both started to feel nervous and anxious. When they got to the church, they noticed a car in the middle of the road and someone flagging them down to stop. They were told a pedestrian might've been hit.
Perley could see it was Francis, she said, breaking down during her testimony.
"That's my son, that's my son," she remembers yelling.
Perley said there were several people already on scene.
Johnson's defence lawyer, Gilles Lemieux, told Perley he is sorry for her loss, but had no questions for her on cross-examination.
Tried to save son
Brady's father, Dana Francis, testified he's trained in CPR and tried to help save his son.
Francis believed Brady would be OK, until ambulance attendants told him his son was dead.
At the the scene, Dana Francis sang two verses of a traditional Mi'kmaq song.
Krista Daigle was the third person to testify Monday. Daigle and her husband Rosaire arrived on scene in their side-by-side.
She found some items belonging to Brady Francis, including a wallet and cellphone. A small GMC was also on the ground. Other items included a Scene card and a bag of Doritos.
Daigle was on scene when Brady's parents arrived. She tried to keep Perley warm by giving her a coat and mittens. she said.
3 weeks for trial
Court of Queen's Bench Justice Denise LeBlanc is presiding over the trial, which is scheduled to run until Jan.31.
Pierre Gionet and Nicholas Comeau are the Crown prosecutors handling the case.
They entered several exhibits into evidence Monday, including clothes, car parts and security video.
Johnson is being tried by judge alone. There were about 40 people in the courtroom Monday, along with members of the media.
No interpretation service provided
Family and advocates had pushed for simultaneous interpretation of the trial, which is being held in French.
But New Brunswick Justice Minister Andrea Anderson-Mason said in December 2018 that interpretation service would not be provided.
Both Perley and Francis testified in English.
Paul Bradley, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice, said in an email an overflow room in the courthouse would be set aside because of the anticipated large public turnout.
A video feed of the trial would be shown in the overflow room, but official translation would not be provided.
Bradley said that if the community of Elsipogtog wanted to co-ordinate its own interpretation, that would be welcome in the overflow room.
With files from Maeve McFadden