‘We’ve been shat­tered’

Daugh­ters of woman killed by drunk driver give heart-wrench­ing state­ments

The Compass - - Classified - BY ROSIE MULLALEY rmul­la­ley@thetele­gram.com Twit­ter: Te­lyRosie

At 83, Jane Ne­whook was a happy, vi­brant woman who had a lot of life left to live, her daugh­ters said.

But her life was taken too soon by a drunk driver who, af­ter crash­ing into Ne­whook’s car, saw her life­less body, grabbed a case of beer from his van and walked away.

“We’ve been shat­tered,” Melissa Dawn Ne­whook, the youngest of Ne­whook’s seven daugh­ters, told re­porters out­side New­found­land Supreme Court in St. John’s last Mon­day. “Our fam­ily is so lost with­out our mother. She was our an­chor.”

Melissa Dawn Ne­whook was one of three of the daugh­ters who read vic­tim im­pact state­ments dur­ing the sen­tenc­ing hear­ing for Ge­orge Mal­colm Whalen, 68.

The Trinity Bay man pleaded guilty to charges of im­paired driv­ing caus­ing death, driv­ing while pro­hib­ited and fail­ing to re­main at an ac­ci­dent scene.

Whalen was ar­rested as a re­sult of a crash that hap­pened just be­fore 6 p.m. on July 9, 2016, in the small com­mu­nity of Thorn­lea, about 40 kilo­me­tres north­west of Whit­bourne. Whalen was driv­ing a Dodge Car­a­van, with his 25-year-old grand­son in the pas­sen­ger seat, when he emerged from a side street and into the path of Ne­whook’s Hyundai Elantra. The Norman’s Cove-Long Cove woman, the lone oc­cu­pant in the ve­hi­cle, died on im­pact.

Ac­cord­ing to the agreed state­ment of facts, Whalen had con­sumed a dozen beer and a flask of Lamb’s Rum be­fore get­ting be­hind the wheel.

Wit­nesses said that when they ar­rived at the crash scene, Whalen was revving his en­gine, turn­ing the van’s wheels and at­tempt­ing to re­verse away from the Hyundai.

Ne­whook was life­less, with sev­eral in­juries to her face, and she was cov­ered in blood, but Whalen told by­standers she would be fine. When he took a case of a dozen beer from the van and walked away, one of the wit­nesses called 911.

Po­lice found Whalen at 7:14 p.m. in a wooded area be­hind his house and ar­rested him. Of­fi­cers no­ticed a strong smell of al­co­hol and that Whalen had wa­tery eyes. He was un­steady on his feet and needed help walk­ing. He re­fused to give a breath sam­ple at the po­lice sta­tion.

Ne­whook’s daugh­ters cried and held each other’s hands as Crown prose­cu­tor Mike Mur­ray read the de­tails of the case.

There were plenty of tears as each of the daugh­ters read their vic­tim im­pact state­ments.

Melissa Dawn Ne­whook said she’s been “lit­er­ally par­a­lyzed” by her mother’s death. She has suf­fered from grief, anger, dis­be­lief and anx­i­ety. She was un­able to re­turn to work for six months, was un­able to so­cial­ize and has spent thou­sands of dol­lars on grief therapy and med­i­ca­tion. Amelia Cur­ran Singer/song­writer the mu­sic in­dus­try takes you in­side

She spoke about her mother’s love of life, how she loved to knit, sew and bake de­li­cious cin­na­mon buns for her grand­chil­dren. She was a master seam­stress, and loved travel and gar­den­ing.

“She could eas­ily pass for 60,” she later told re­porters. “It was gut wrench­ing (to read the state­ment), but it was very im­por­tant to get the mes­sage out there what drunk driv­ing can do to lives.”

An­other daugh­ter, Ella Ann Pen­ney, pointed out that de­spite her mother’s age, her life was far from over.

“To her, age was only truly a num­ber,” Pen­ney said, sob­bing, catch­ing her breath. “She thanked God each day and I find it very hurt­ful that her life was con­sid­ered less valu­able be­cause she was 83 years old.”

An­other daugh­ter, Delores Ne­whook, said she missed her mother’s com­pan­ion­ship. She said the en­tire com­mu­nity was shaken by her mother’s death.

As each of the daugh­ters re­turned to their seats in the back of the court­room, they re­ceived a hug or a pat on the shoul­der.

Mur­ray read the state­ment by an­other daugh­ter, Ma­rina Karen Coish, who wrote, “I’m up­set that I never got to say good­bye to my mother.” Since she shares the same birth­day with her mother, she said, they will never be the same.

Mur­ray told Jus­tice Don­ald Bur­rage that Whalen — who has seven prior drunk-driv­ing con­vic­tions and four con­vic­tions for driv­ing while pro­hib­ited — should be given a jail term be­tween eight and 10 years and should be banned from driv­ing for the rest of his life.

He said Whalen has had many op­por­tu­ni­ties to change and has had many warn­ings from the le­gal sys­tem and his fam­ily.

“Im­paired driv­ing causes more deaths than any­thing else in Canada,” Mur­ray said, cit­ing case law. “It has a far greater im­pact on Canadian so­ci­ety than any other crime.”

Mur­ray said Whalen made a de­lib­er­ate de­ci­sion to drive that day, and pointed to Whalen’s “cal­lous dis­re­gard for the vic­tim,” af­ter the crash.

De­fence lawyer Kevin Baker said a prison term of five to six years is more ap­pro­pri­ate.

He said Whalen ad­mits he has had a life­long strug­gle with al­co­hol. He said Whalen started drink­ing when he was 10 years old.

Baker said that at the time of the crash, Whalen was griev­ing the death of his wife, who died a month be­fore.

Baker said Whalen, who has been be­hind bars since the crash, knows what he did was wrong.

When Whalen was given the op­por­tu­nity to speak, he of­fered con­do­lences to Ne­whook’s fam­ily and said, “I take re­spon­si­bil­ity for my ac­tions.”

The judge will ren­der his de­ci­sion on sen­tenc­ing June 6.

ROSIE MULLALEY/THE TELEGRAM

Ge­orge Mal­colm Whalen (left) speaks to his lawyer, Kevin Baker, prior to the start of Whalen’s sen­tenc­ing hear­ing Mon­day at New­found­land Supreme Court in St. John’s.

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