A Toronto man who blew through a red light at 100 km/h while evading police in a stolen pickup truck has been found guilty of criminal negligence causing death for a multi-vehicle crash that killed a Bramalea senior [a little over] two years ago.
Ronald McWatters, 57, was found guilty of 15 criminal offences Wednesday, which also included leaving the scene of the crash, following a judge-alone trial that centred on just one issue – the identity of the driver of the stolen pickup with 18 empty stolen beer kegs in the back.
McWatters has been in custody since the Sept. 16, 2013 crash that killed George “Stan” Knowles, 61, a Bramalea father of three who was returning home from golfing with his son. He will be back in court May 9 for a sentencing hearing.
Justice Thomas Bielby outlined his decision in a 50-page ruling that concluded McWatters demonstrated a “wanton and reckless disregard for the safety of others.”
“The driver put his own desire to evade capture over the safety of others using the roadway,” Bielby wrote.
McWatters was driving at double the 50 km/h speed limit on Clark Boulevard in the middle of the day – around 11 a.m. – when he went through a red light at the busy intersection of Bramalea Road and T-boned Knowles’ minivan, hitting it directly on the driver’s door, according to Bielby’s conclusions from the evidence at trial. McWatters “made no effort to brake,” the judge concluded.
McWatters should not have been driving at the time, Bielby noted, as he was subject to 11 driving bans at the time.
The events leading up to the violent crash began when a Peel police officer spotted a pickup truck in the parking lot at Bramalea City Centre. He testified that he made eye contact with the driver. The man drove off and the officer lost sight of the vehicle. A second officer driving on Clark Boulevard spotted the vehicle and followed it, but he lost sight of it, too, according to the SIU investigation. Moments later, the crash occurred.
A Peel police officer described in court the scene of the crash as “chaotic.” After the pickup truck collided with Knowles’ minivan, the vehicles spun and hit four other vehicles. The other drivers suffered minor injuries.
Assistant Crown Sean Doyle called police and civilian witnesses to the stand during the trial. Defence lawyer Michael Morse told the court the Crown had not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that it was McWatters driving the pickup, and cautioned that eyewitness evidence is inherently dangerous.
Morse pointed out what he called “major discrepancies” in the evidence of the witnesses in relation to time, speed and distances.
McWatters was found guilty of 15 offences in total, which also included possession of stolen property and driving while disqualified, while another eight charges were stayed.
Source: The Brampton Guardian