‘We’ve been shattered’
Daughters of woman killed by drunk driver give heart-wrenching statements
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.
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.