Kyle Brandon Danyliuk learned in a packed courtroom Thursday morning he will spend two-years-less-a-day in jail for the hit-and-run crash that killed 56-year-old White Rock resident Marilyn Laursen.
In announcing Danyliuk’s sentence – which includes a five-year driving ban – Surrey Provincial Court Judge Michael Hicks described the 20-year-old’s driving behaviour on the night of May 18, 2011 as “approaching criminal negligence.”
“At any point along that route, a tragedy… was waiting to occur,” Hicks said, referring to the roads travelled and speeds reached as Danyliuk attempted to evade police over the course of a pursuit through White Rock.
“That catastrophe occurred at the red light at Thrift Avenue. The lives of many people will not be the same.”
Laursen was crossing Johnston Road at Thrift Avenue with a friend when she was struck by the dark-red Nissan Maxima that Danyliuk was driving. Immediately prior to the collision, in the course of trying to evade police, Danyliuk hit a white Honda, injuring its driver, then proceeded without braking through a red light, Hicks said, recounting details shared in a sentencing hearing last month.
Danyliuk – who arrived at court wearing a red hoodie and sunglasses, with the hood pulled up over his head – knew he’d hit Laursen but didn’t stop to help or identify himself. Instead, he drove on, abandoning the car a short distance from his now-fiancé Carleigh Merritt’s home. Shortly after, Merritt reported the vehicle had been stolen.
Danyliuk, who has never held a driver’s licence, was arrested two months later and pleaded guilty in February. During last month’s sentencing hearing, he expressed remorse for his actions, saying “I’ve ruined the lives of a lot of people plus myself.”
Citing evidence that Danyliuk has turned his life around in the wake of the tragedy, Hicks said he believes the South Surrey man is repentant.
“I accept that he’s remorseful and genuinely anguished,” Hicks said.
At the same time, Danyliuk “acted irresponsibly in the extreme.”
His sentence includes 18 months for dangerous driving causing death and 12 months for dangerous driving causing bodily injury, to be served concurrently. Those terms are to be served prior to concurrent terms of six months less a day and six months imposed for the charges of leaving the scene of an accident causing death or bodily harm with the intent to escape civil or criminal liability.
Hicks also imposed three years’ probation and ordered Danyliuk to provide a DNA sample.
Outside court, prior to the decision, Danyliuk held his young son, Brandon – born after the tragedy – and received numerous hugs from his family and other supporters. Just steps away, Laursen’s friends and family consoled each other.
As Hicks shared his reasons for sentence with attendees, young Brandon could be heard cooing and gurgling from the gallery, the sound intermixed with occasional sobs from both sides of the courtroom.
Danyliuk waved to his supporters as he was led from court.
Following the decision, Laursen’s brother, Christian, told Peace Arch News his sister “was the best” and that no sentence could repair the damage done by her death.
“Nothing makes it better,” he said. “(Danyliuk’s) family can still go see him. We can’t go and talk to her, we can’t go and see her.
“We can try carrying on. It’ll never be the same.”
Prosecutor Brad Kielmann had been seeking a global sentence of 48 months in jail for Danyliuk. Defence counsel Isaac Ferbey submitted that a term between 18 months and two years less a day would be more appropriate.
Ferbey told PAN the outcome was “within the range of what I thought was appropriate.”
“The family’s relieved with the result, in that he was not going to the penitentiary.”
While most in the courtroom did not have a clear view of Danyliuk’s face, Ferbey said it was evident to him that his client was becoming emotional towards the end of Hicks’ reasons for sentence.
“For him, as for everybody, it’s very difficult to hear the circumstances and the extent of the damage that he caused to so many people’s lives,” he said.
Ferbey noted that Danyliuk will not be in jail for the full length of his sentence. He will qualify for parole after serving one-third and will likely be released after serving two-thirds, he said.
He pointed out that the judge’s decision took into account that deterring Danyliuk from reoffending was not necessary.
“The court found that Mr. Danyliuk had learned his lesson already.”
The case drew the interest of Surrey mother Markita Kaulius, whose daughter Kassandra was killed 15 days before Marilyn Laursen, by a woman who has pleaded guilty to charges including impaired driving causing death. Natasha Leigh Warren is due back in court on Dec. 17.
Kaulius said she attended court Thursday because of the bond she now shares with Laursen’s family.
She is advocating for harsher sentences for anyone who takes a life while behind the wheel.
“For taking someone’s life, I say a minimum of five years,” she said.
The White Rock RCMP officer who pursued Danyliuk prior to the crash is also facing charges in connection with the hit-and-run case.
Const. David Bickle faces charges of dangerous driving causing death and dangerous driving causing bodily harm.
His lawyer, G. Jack Harris, made a brief court appearance on his behalf Tuesday, telling court officials he is still awaiting documents pertaining to his client’s case.
Bickle is due back in court Nov. 9.