Family of cyclist killed by driver disappointed by possible 2-year sentence

The family of a cyclist struck and killed by a driver are disappointed with the joint recommendation by lawyers of a two-year prison sentence for the P.E.I. man who hit her.

Marjolaine Ward was struck by a driver who failed to stop to help in August 2018 in Kildare Capes

Marjolaine Ward was a teacher at the school in Deblois since 2006. She leaves behind a large extended family. (Photo submitted by former colleague, friend Tania Simard)

The family of a cyclist who was struck and killed by a car are disappointed lawyers are recommending a two-year prison sentence for the P.E.I. driver who hit her. 

Matthew Clifford Gaudet, 32, of Central Kildare pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing death and to failing to stop and offer help to the victim.

The collision happened on Aug. 27, 2018 on Route 12 in Kildare Capes.

Marjolaine Ward was riding her bike, training for a triathlon when she was struck and killed by a car in August 2018. (Submitted by Tania Simard)

The cyclist was Marjolaine Ward, 60, a teacher at the nearby École Pierre-Chiasson School in Deblois, P.E.I.

Ward's family was in court in Summerside Wednesday for a P.E.I. Supreme Court hearing on an appropriate sentence for Gaudet. Because he pleaded guilty, there will not be a trial.

The Crown and defence jointly recommended two years in prison.

Jim Sloan, Ward's brother-in-law, told reporters after the hearing the family had hoped for a tougher sentence.

"If it was your sister, or mother or daughter, you think that someone who hit her, killed her, drove away, left her to die, with no trial, no chance to defend herself, would you be happy with a two-year sentence?" said Sloan.

"The sentence for one of the offences was 14 years maximum and the other one was life. Add those two together it doesn't add up to two years," he said.

Court heard on Wednesday when Gaudet's Toyota Camry car struck Ward, she hit the windshield and died later in hospital as a result of severe trauma from the collision. 

Matthew Clifford Gaudet, in the purple shirt, enters the courthouse in Summerside on Wednesday. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

A collision reconstructionist estimated Gaudet was travelling at a speed of at least 120 km/h in an 80-kilometre zone, and that there was no evidence he braked before or after the impact.

The court heard that after leaving the scene, Gaudet drove into his yard, left the damaged car there and took off in another car.

Damage to the vehicle included a smashed windshield and missing passenger side window.

RCMP found him several hours later hiding under an unoccupied cottage. A police dog pulled him out and police arrested him on the scene.

Court heard the roads were clear that evening in August 2018, and that the victim was wearing bright clothing and a helmet. She was training for a triathlon.

The victim's bike after the collision, entered into evidence. (Submitted by RCMP)

"There's no greater offence than taking the life of another person. The culpability of this offender is high. He got into his car, speeding well above the speed limit and caused the death of another person," said the Crown attorney John Diamond. 

"She was a well-respected, valued member of the school system … and contributed in many ways through her school and community involvement," Diamond said.

Gaudet's lawyer Peter Ghiz said his client is struggling with mental health issues, suicidal thoughts and the guilt he feels about what happened. Gaudet has been hospitalized twice since the crash. Court also heard he was convicted five years ago for impaired driving.

Gaudet made a brief statement to the court, to apologize.

Ward had 11 brothers and sisters and many grand-nieces and nephews, said Sloan. "I can tell you when we get together there is a profound loss."

This photograph of a Toyota Camry driven by Gaudet, entered into evidence, shows damage to the passenger side. (Submitted by RCMP)

Ward's former colleague Tania Simard was in court for the hearing as well.

"Justice is not going to be served, but at least he's going to have a little idea, at least a little time to reflect on what happened and how it happened," said Simard. "It's not satisfying. but what can you do."

In addition to the two-year sentence, lawyers recommended a four-year driving ban for Gaudet, 18 months probation and 1,500 hours of community service.

Justice Tracey Clements said she wanted some time to think about the two-year sentence recommendation. She will have her decision on Nov. 22. 

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With files from Brian Higgins, Sally Pitt