12 months in jail for fatal 2020 hit, run
Read this article for free:
Already have an account? Log in here »
To continue reading, please subscribe:
Monthly Digital Subscription
$4.75 per week*
- Enjoy unlimited reading on winnipegfreepress.com
- Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
- Access News Break, our award-winning app
- Play interactive puzzles
*Billed as $19.00 plus GST every four weeks. Cancel anytime.
The widow of a Winnipeg man killed in a 2020 hit-and-run by a driver with a suspended licence cried Monday as she told court of her loss.
Ashley Farrell, 33, began to tear up, as she started to read her 10-page victim-impact statement.
“When I think about writing this letter, my body just shuts down,” she said. “When I talk about it, it hurts like no other pain I’ve felt in my life.”
Allan Wayne Vandal Jr. was driving his partner’s Ford F-150 on Grey Street at about 10 p.m., July 29, 2020, when James Porth, 51, entered the road from an alleyway on a gas-assisted bicycle.
Vandal, who had the right of way, struck Porth but left the scene, driving the truck to his nearby home, according to an agreed statement of facts Crown attorney Thomas Boult read at Vandal’s sentencing hearing.
Passersby who heard the collision came to Porth’s aid, but the father of five was pronounced dead of multiple serious injuries a short time later. Winnipeg police arrested Vandal, 44, on Sept. 21, 2021.
“When I think about writing this letter, my body just shuts down… When I talk about it, it hurts like no other pain I’ve felt in my life.”–Ashley Farrell
“This is a heartbreaking scenario for all involved,” Boult told provincial court Judge David Mann.
Farrell had two sons and a daughter with Porth. All were under 10 when their father died. Porth also had two older children.
The couple’s daughter was just nine months old at the time of his death; Farrell said she now carries photographs of Porth in a “little toddler purse.”
“We are left suffering because James was left in the street to die,” Farrell said.
The family had lived down the street from the site of the fatal collision. Farrell said they had to move to avoid passing the scene daily.
The family has had difficulties paying its bills since Porth’s death, Farrell said. Although she had planned to recently attend post-secondary school, she was unable to amid her grief.
At the end of her statement, she turned to Vandal in the courtroom, showing him a photograph of a drawing one of her sons, featuring a broken heart. “Their hearts are broken,” Farrell said.
“This is a heartbreaking scenario for all involved.”–Crown attorney Thomas Boult
Boult read four more victim-impact statements to the judge, including those of Porth’s two youngest sons, his older daughter and the man’s mother, who sat tearfully in the court’s spectator gallery.
Vandal’s licence had been suspended for 16 months following an impaired driving conviction in 2018, for which he served 60 days of intermittent custody. He had no other criminal record.
Court heard he had panicked following the 2020 collision and wasn’t sure if it had been real; the next day, he inspected the truck’s damaged bumper, surveillance video obtained by police showed.
Defence lawyer Hayley Allardyce told court Vandal is a father, who had past struggled with drugs and alcohol from about 15 until he was arrested for the DUI in 2018. The intergenerational impact of residential schools has affected his life, she said.
Allardyce told court Vandal got in the truck that night in order to run an errand and didn’t want to wake his partner and children, despite his suspended driver’s licence. She noted there was no evidence he had been driving dangerously or while impaired that night, though that does not justify the decisions he made.
Allardyce said Vandal had thought about turning himself in, but didn’t because he was concerned about the effect on his children. The defence lawyer noted he was pained to learn the victim also had children.
Vandal pleaded guilty to one count of leaving the scene of an accident causing death — which Allardyce pointed to as evidence of accepting responsibility.
Mann sentenced Vandal to 362 days in jail, based on a joint recommendation from the Crown and defence.
He was led from the courtroom by sheriff’s officers, while his parents and the victim’s family watched. Upon release, Vandal will be prohibited from driving any vehicle nationwide for five years.
Vandal apologized to the victim’s family.
“I would like to give my deepest apologies and condolences,” he told court, adding pleading guilty was the morally right choice. “I pray for the family.”
Erik Pindera reports for the city desk, with a particular focus on crime and justice.
Updated on Monday, January 16, 2023 9:02 PM CST: Fixes typo