Erin Wright drank at least seven shots of tequila in the hours before she got into her Nissan and killed a pedestrian on a sidewalk.
A Toronto hairstylist who drove her car onto a sidewalk and struck and killed New Brunswick visitor Debra Graves was sentenced to five years in prison Thursday after pleading guilty to impaired driving causing death.
“Good luck,” Ontario Court Justice Timothy Breen told Erin Wright, 29, as she was led out of court in handcuffs.
“You can’t fix what you have done but you can hopefully gain something from the experience.”
Breen accepted a joint position on a sentence that included a four-year driving prohibition once she is released.
Members of Graves’ family were in the courtroom and filed victim impact statements. In addition to pouring out their anguish over losing a beautiful, caring and compassionate mother, Graves’ daughters, Caitlin and Sarah Crawford, delivered a blistering message.
When someone drinks and drives, he or she has already decided it’s OK to kill someone’s loved one, they wrote. “Your selfish and reckless convenience and entertainment” was more valuable than their mother’s life, they wrote.
Wright submitted a letter expressing remorse to the family but declined the judge’s offer to say anything in court.
On Oct. 4, 2017, Wright went to the St. Louis Bar and Grill at Fairview Mall at Don Mills Rd. and Sheppard Ave. E., where video footage captured her consuming at least seven shots of tequila between 8:44 p.m. and 10:45 p.m. Beer was served at the table but it isn’t clear whether she consumed any.
Just after 11 p.m., video surveillance shows her stumbling and having trouble opening the door to leave, according to an agreed statement of facts read out in court.
At 11:03, Wright drove her 2014 Nissan Rogue out of the parking lot. Minutes later she struck Graves, 63, who was walking with a co-worker on the north sidewalk of York Mills Rd. near Don Mills Rd. They were in Toronto that week for work.
Graves was thrown onto the hood of the car and propelled to the grass a few meters away, where she died. The vehicle sped away at a high rate of speed.
Wright drove her car to a side street and slept. In the morning, she called a friend and told him that she believed she had hit a pole. On Oct. 5, at 11:34 a.m., she called the owner of a body shop to fix her vehicle.
At no time did she report the accident. But prosecutor Matthew Bloch did not dispute that Wright was unaware that she had struck a person.
He withdrew a charge of leaving the scene of the accident.
Police recovered a fog-light grill from the scene and later matched it to Wright’s vehicle. The victim’s blood was on the hood near the cracked windshield.
The judge said Wright’s “moral culpability” was high because this was not a case of “one too many after a Christmas party,” but rather she had “purposely set out to get drunk with the full intention of driving.”
Nevertheless, he said there were mitigating factors including her guilty plea, no prior criminal record, and efforts to come to grips with alcohol abuse.
“I’m happy that we resolved this quickly. I hope everyone involved can finally build their lives. It’s a tragic, tragic case,” said her lawyer, Clayton Ruby.
Wright had lived a “very exemplary life other than this. No criminal record,” and one minor moving violation.
“She’s a good person who worked hard all her life, but her mother died, and her father was told, just before this accident, that he could no longer take any more chemotherapy for this cancer, and so she was falling apart. And that’s when she drank … and if she was going to drink she shouldn’t have gotten in the car. Nobody is sadder about that now than she is.”