Judge to sentence woman whose dangerous driving killed Ryan Ward in 2018 crash

·3 min read
Members of Ryan Ward's family, including sister Jessica Ward, left, niece Fayth Ward, mother Sharlyn Ward, father Fred Ward and biological father Rene Hebert wore shirts with Ward's photo to court for the sentencing hearing on Wednesday morning in Moncton.  (Shane Magee/CBC - image credit)
Members of Ryan Ward's family, including sister Jessica Ward, left, niece Fayth Ward, mother Sharlyn Ward, father Fred Ward and biological father Rene Hebert wore shirts with Ward's photo to court for the sentencing hearing on Wednesday morning in Moncton. (Shane Magee/CBC - image credit)

A judge will decide Thursday whether a woman convicted of dangerous driving causing the death of a 27-year-old man three years ago should be sent to jail or serve her sentence at home.

Danielle Lortz, 37, was found guilty by a jury in December of causing the death of Ryan Ward on Feb. 22, 2018.

He died after the vehicle driven by Lortz crossed the solid yellow centre line on Route 116 near Elsipogtog First Nation and crashed head-on into the vehicle Ward was driving.

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Jean-Paul Ouellette heard victim impact statements and legal arguments on Wednesday morning.

Jessica Ward, Ward's sister, read four victim impact statements to the judge that outlined the pain the family has felt since Ward's death.

Fergusons Funeral Home/Submitted
Fergusons Funeral Home/Submitted

The judge was told Ward was en route to his job at Tim Hortons in Richibucto.

The victim impact statements offered a sketch of a person who loved life, easily made friends and whose death left many grieving.

Family members in the statements described the pain of Ward missing birthdays, weddings, holidays and other special events.

"Ryan did not deserve to be taken the way he was," Jessica Ward told Ouellette. She said what happened wasn't an accident, but negligence by Lortz.

The offence carries a maximum of 14 years in prison.

Prosecutors are seeking two years in jail as well as a five-year driving prohibition.

Crown prosecutor Patrick McGuinty said incarceration for dangerous driving causing death is standard in New Brunswick, citing several previous cases.

McGuinty told the judge the court must deter others by sending a message that no one is going to tolerate dangerous driving.

"To not impose a period of incarceration undermines that deterrence entirely," McGuinty said.

McGuinty noted Lortz's driving abstract shows she has two tickets for speeding and another crash previous to the one that killed Ward.

"This type of dangerous driving is not isolated," McGuinty said.

Defence argues rights violated

Defence lawyer James Matheson argued the Criminal Code of Canada violates Lortz's rights by making her ineligible for a conditional sentence.

Matheson says in the circumstances, Lortz should be receive a conditional sentence that would let her to serve her time at home under house arrest.

Lortz, who says she can't remember what led to the crash, read an emotional appeal to the judge to let her serve her sentence at home so she can care for her four children with autism.

Shane Magee/CBC
Shane Magee/CBC

"I'm so very sorry that Ryan is gone," Lortz said, looking at Ward's family members in the public gallery. She said she had known Ward for several years, seeing him at Tim Hortons and other places in the community.

"I would've been happy to be paralyzed if that meant Ryan didn't die," Lortz said.

Matheson said his client's Indigenous heritage and caregiver role must be considered when issuing the sentence.

He said if the judge decides jail time is required, it should be served intermittently on weekends.

Ouellette said he will issue his decision Thursday afternoon, including on whether Lortz's rights are violated by the Criminal Code.

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