An Edmonton man was sentenced to three years and nine months in prison on Tuesday for a fatal 2017 hit-and-run.
Justin Handbury, 33, killed 18-year-old Jade Belcourt when he ran him over with a truck in a drug deal turned violent, according to the agreed statement of facts.
Handbury was sentenced on charges of dangerous driving causing death and dangerous driving causing bodily harm.
On Tuesday, Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Rodney Jerke delivered his decision to a courtroom divided between the family members of the offender and the victim.
“The impact of this kind of occurrence on the community is always profound,” Jerke said. “It shouldn’t have happened to anybody and it happened to everybody in this room now.”
Rhonda Belcourt wore a “Justice for Jade” T-shirt with her son’s face printed on the front as she read out a tearful victim impact statement from the witness stand.
Jade’s three older brothers have all had a child since he was killed, Rhonda told the court, each bearing his name in some form.
“They will know Jade now through our memories and trips to his grave,” Rhonda told the court. “Sometimes moving forward in my life without my Jade is unbearable.”
Drug deal gone wrong
The entire case was stitched together by drugs, Justice Jerke said.
On May 22, 2017, Handbury drove a stolen pickup truck to Belcourt’s family home in west Edmonton, according to the agreed statement of facts. He had arranged to sell drugs to Belcourt’s sister-in-law, but Belcourt and his brother made plans to rob Handbury.
A fight broke out and Handbury eventually retreated to his truck bloodied and bruised. Belcourt smashed the windshield with a baseball bat. As the teenager turned toward the house, Handbury ran over him twice with the truck.
He fled the scene and ditched the truck in Wetaskiwin before turning himself in to police two days later.
Handbury pleaded guilty on Monday before a 10-day jury trial was set to begin.
“I know sorry doesn’t go far in a courtroom, but I owe everyone affected an apology,” he told the court on Tuesday.
As his wife and mother looked on from the gallery, Handbury said his actions were fuelled by drug addiction.
“I’m not a monster. I’m a loving husband and father. I’m a human and I made a mistake,” he said.
Handbury has completed treatment programs in the past for drug addiction and will continue to seek treatment going forward, his lawyer said.
Judge accepts joint sentencing submission
The sentence is the latest addition to Handbury’s lengthy criminal record — 68 convictions over 12 years, the court heard.
The judge accepted a joint submission from defence and Crown lawyers for the three-year-and-nine-month sentence. It is within the two- to four-year range handed down in similar cases, the judge said.
Handbury will receive 420 days credit for time served in pre-trial detention.
As the judge read out his decision, Rhonda broke down in tears.
“There is no justice for Jade at all,” she said outside the courtroom.
And while the Belcourt may not feel there is justice, she said there is closure.
“It won’t bring back my son Jade but I’m hoping that . . . we can move on now and try to heal in some sort of a way. But Jade will always be in my heart and in my soul and he’ll always walk with me.”