Steven Ronald Theriault had been drinking and using drugs for days before driving a rented car full of friends on Highway 3 at speeds of up to 192 km / h and then losing control and killing a passenger.
The crash on April 22, 2020, 15 km south of Behchokǫ̀, killed Florriane Rabesca and injured two other women. One of the women, Laurie Lynn Gargan – Rabesca’s best friend – spent weeks in, among other places, two hospitals with a broken neck and broken pelvis.
Rabesca, 21, from Behchokǫ̀, was the mother of a boy who was five years old at the time. He’s being raised by her parents now.
At a court hearing on Wednesday, it was found that 44-year-old Theriault did not have a driver’s license at the time. He had lost his driver’s license several years earlier after rolling a vehicle in High Level, Alberta, seriously injuring several people.
Theriault, who was convicted of dangerous driving for this incident, has four driving offenses – including another dangerous driving conviction in the 1990s – on his criminal record, which contains 34 records, including several of violent crimes.
“Mr. Theriault should have been aware of the risk of driving at excessive speed,” said prosecutor Angie Paquin, noting that he blamed a bump on the road for the April 2020 accident.
Theriault should have learned a lesson [but] it is not clear to me that to this day he recognizes the risk; This significant speed contributed to the accident.
“Mr Theriault clearly poses a safety risk to anyone on the road. It seems the fact that he does not have a driver’s license [doesn’t diminish] his willingness not to drive, let alone at high speed. “
The maximum speed indicated on this stretch of Highway 3 is 100 km / h. The court heard that Theriault lost control when he turned to look at passenger April Grandjambe.
Theriault had originally received six charges related to the crash but agreed to plead guilty to four in exchange for having two withdrawn.
Paquin called on Justice Shannon Smallwood to sentence Theriault to a total of six to seven years in prison with a life ban on driving.
This would include six years for dangerous driving resulting in death, three years each time – at the same time – for two cases of dangerous driving causing personal injury, and one year in a row for not stopping after an accident causing personal injury and death.
The defense attorney Jay Bran called for a total sentence of four and a half to five years.
After the badly damaged 2015 Chrysler sedan stalled on its roof, Theriault stepped out a window to get out of the vehicle. The 29-year-old passenger Grandjambe was shocked and sat on the ground in the snow on a clear, sunny day. Moments before, she had asked the occupants of the car to buckle up when she sensed the danger of the increasing speed.
The occupants of the car had drank vodka from Mickey’s which they had previously bought in Yellowknife.
The 32-year-old passenger in the back seat, Cory Sarasin-Bloomstrand, also crawled out of the vehicle.
The court heard Theriault and Sarasin-Bloomstrand run away and make their way back to the ward. The couple then disappeared and sparked an intense manhunt. (Sarasin-Bloomstrand’s family claim he stayed in the vehicle first to help others. Sarasin-Bloomstrand of Yellowknife died in an Edmonton hospital on October 19, 2020. The cause of his death was not mentioned in court.)
The couple fled to Edmonton, with Theriault getting into a long period of drug and alcohol abuse, the prosecutor said.
The fact that Theriault fled the scene, leaving his fatally injured girlfriend Rabesca and his other injured girlfriends behind, is “morally reprehensible,” Paquin said.
Theriault was discovered in the intensive care unit of an Edmonton hospital via social media on May 15, 2020. It is not known why he was in the hospital. An arrest warrant for Theriault was issued and the Edmonton Police were notified. However, officials were told he was too sick to be arrested, Prosecutor Paquin said.
“Then he left the hospital against medical advice,” she said, noting that the RCMP then issued a second request for public help in finding him.
Theriault was finally arrested on June 2 and has been in custody ever since. He earned 15 months of pre-trial detention, which will be applied to the sentence he receives.
“Given Mr. Theriault’s criminal record, the court should not be lenient,” said Paquin.
Seven statements about the impact of the victim were made by family and friends. Some were read out in court by their authors.
“It will be some time before I let go of her ghost,” said Rabesca’s father Tony Rabesca.
“As a father, I try to be strong to protect my family. I ask my ancestors to keep me strong.
“My beautiful baby… I miss her every day. I love her so much I know that one day we’ll see each other. “
Justice Smallwood has reserved her decision until 1:30 p.m. Thursday.