A judge has found Jonathan Pratt, the man accused of impaired driving in a collision that killed two Beaumont teens and one Leduc County teen, guilty of three counts manslaughter and three counts impaired driving causing death.
The ruling was delivered at a Wetaskiwin courthouse on Thursday morning. Three counts of blood alcohol level over .08 causing death were stayed because they overlapped with the other impaired charges.
The charges stem from a Nov. 26, 2011 collision where Pratt’s pickup truck rear-ended a Pontiac Grand Am that was carrying Bradley Arsenault, 18, Thaddeus Lake, 22 and Kole Novak, 18 on Highway 625 near Beaumont.
The court had heard that the pickup truck was traveling at 199 kilometres per hour at the time of the collision and that Pratt’s blood alcohol content was between 0.2 and 0.244, which is nearly three times the legal limit.
The guilty ruling came as a relief to Bradley’s mother Sheri Arsenault, at least momentarily.
“I felt a moment of relief and then I took a look at the picture of Brad, Kole and Thad and there’s still so much great sorrow,” she said. “It went really well, but they’re still not coming home.”
She said while the ordeal will never truly be over for her, she believes the court has made a strong statement in condemning impaired driving causing death.
“The greatest thing we and the court accomplished today is to maybe have set a precedent, that kind of speed is murder, or manslaughter, which is a form of murder,” she said.
“I feel a sense of closure that this part is over … now I have to start praying for justice at sentencing,” she added.
One of the hardest parts of attending the three-week trial for the grieving mother was hearing that the man accused of her son’s death was pleading not guilty to all nine charges.
“We’ll never understand the senselessness of this crime, the unbelievable speed and the unbelievable impairment,” she said. “And the fact that he said not guilty nine times.”
She said she wanted to thank the prosecution, the RCMP and all the witnesses, as well as the media for reporting on the trial.
“They were all a huge part in the continuation of Brad, Kole and Thad’s voice.”
Pratt’s lawyer had challenged several pieces of evidence, saying the police did not have fair and reasonable grounds to obtain Pratt’s blood and arguing they had not done enough work to determine who was the driver.
The prosecution had argued that Pratt’s DNA was found inside the car and there were no footprints in the snow to indicate another driver had left the scene. The judge ruled the evidence as admissible.
Pratt is expected to be sentenced on August 1.
This story originally appeared in La Nouvelle Beaumont News