The woman convicted of impaired driving causing the death of a Ladner toddler is residing in Delta despite telling the family she would live elsewhere.
In May 2008 four-and-a-half year old Alexa Middelaer was struck and killed while at the side of an east Ladner road while feeding a horse with her aunt, who was seriously injured.
Carol Berner was convicted of two counts of dangerous driving causing death and bodily harm, and two counts of impaired driving causing death and bodily harm, and in November was sentenced to two and-a-half years in prison and handed a five-year driving ban.
She is appealing the decision, and in late November was granted bail.
Alexa’s mother Laurel Middelaer said when applying for bail Berner had specified she planned to live in Ladysmith on Vancouver Island with family. But the Middelaer family was informed recently by victim services Berner is staying in Delta.
“I was told it was uncomfortable for her (in Ladysmith) because the community was not receptive,” Laurel Middelaer said.
While not sure where in Delta—during the trial Berner was living on Tsawwassen First Nation land—Middelaer said she is glad victim services notified her family so they would not come upon Berner unprepared.
“I’m very glad to know in advance because I would not have expected a chance encounter, and so as a family we’re glad to have the knowledge,” she said.
Since the death of Alexa, the Middelaer’s 10-year-old son Christian has feared coming across Berner in his hometown. Their home is just a few blocks from the crash scene, close to where Berner used to live, and both Alexa’s parents and brother arrived on site shortly after the collision to witness the devastation.
“He [Christian] was afraid to bump into her. He was for a whole year very concerned because of what he had seen. It’s not logical, but you have to deal with what a child’s fears are,” Middelaer said.
Berner’s lawyer David Tarnow said she is allowed to live anywhere her bail supervisor deems appropriate.
Her appeal is expected to be heard in the fall of this year, almost a year after her sentencing.
“That is why we’re telling our story, so people can see what the reality of what our system is,” Middelaer said. “It’s very hard to have closure when it does take this long.”
Middelaer added she would like to see consistency across the country when it comes to receiving bail. She referred to a case in Ottawa where a man charged with impaired driving causing death and dangerous driving causing death—the same charges as Berner—was released on $100,000 bail while Berner paid $1,000.
“What is the message sent to our community if you are released on $1,000 bail? To me it sends the message that it’s not that big of a deal.”
The Middelaers continue to raise awareness and funds about impaired driving through The Alexa Middelaer Fund, a partnership with the BCAA Traffic Safety Foundation.
They are currently raising money for mobile blood alcohol testing units to be used at police road checks. On Jan. 23, the Surrey Eagles BCHL ice hockey team will wrap purple tape around their hockey sticks—Alexa’s favourite colour—and sell raffles tickets at their the South Surrey Arena game to raise funds for the “Back the Bus” campaign.