Crashes, fires, guns, drugs and the just plain odd — they’re all featured among 2012’s most prominent crimes and court cases.
Sadly, Westman highways continue to be the scene for tragedies like these:
• A teen was sentenced to four months in jail for a booze cruise crash that killed his friend, 15-year-old Stefan Potter.
The offender, 17 years old at the time of the crash, pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing death and criminal negligence causing bodily harm, and was sentenced on Feb. 6.
Potter, who was from Crystal City, was killed in a Nov. 6, 2010, rollover in the RM of Argyle.
The 17-year-old was the driver of a vehicle that contained Potter and other youths who’d spent time in a bar before loading the car with beer and heading out on rural roads.
The driver had been drinking and the crash happened when he allowed a 14-year-old girl to sit on his lap. The girl was also seriously injured.
The driver’s jail term was to be followed by two months in the community under supervision and one year of probation.
• On Feb. 13, 28-year-old David Jonathan Charles Mecas of the Waywayseecappo First Nation was sentenced to three years in prison for a drunk driving crash that killed Jonathon Daylan McKay.
On May 31, 2008, Mecas was driving a truck along a gravel road when it left the road and rolled. McKay, who wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, was thrown from the truck and crushed by the vehicle.
• In June, the Dakota Ojibway Police Service announced that an arrest had been made in connection with a fatal hit-and-run.
The body of Matthew Wayne Hanska, 22, was found beside a gravel road at the Birdtail First Nation on the morning of May 20.
Police found a hood ornament at the scene, linked it to a specific type of vehicle spotted at the reserve before and made an arrest.
Marceleen Joan Shingoose is charged with driving while impaired by a drug causing death, dangerous driving causing death and other offences.
Her case is still before the courts.
• A thrill ride that turned tragic brought a fine for a Hutterite girl.
The 17-year-old was sentenced on July 17 for a crash that killed 22-year-old Edward Waldner of the Plainview Hutterite Colony.
She pleaded guilty to driving without a licence and to failing to wear a seatbelt under the Highway Traffic Act.
The crash happened on Oct. 3, 2010.
Waldner and the girl had gone for a drive to look at crops when Waldner asked the girl if she wanted to drive.
The girl, an inexperienced driver, took the wheel and lost control within minutes. Waldner, who wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, was thrown from the vehicle as it rolled several times.
The victim’s family didn’t want the girl to be charged at all, but she was fined $500 and banned from driving for a year.
• Four years in prison was the sentence for the drunk driver who took the life of an 11-year-old girl.
Ronalda Stephanie Ross was sentenced on Oct. 22 for the July 6, 2011, crash at the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation that killed Scarlett Wanbdiska.
Wanbdiska and three friends had been riding their bikes along Highway 21 when they stopped to admire some horses.
Ross was driving along the highway. She saw the girls initially, but was distracted by her ringing cellphone and crashed into Wanbdiska.
Ross later pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing death and was sentenced to four years in prison, minus nine months time already served.
The highest-profile court case of the year came in June:
• Former solider Jason John Ouimet was sentenced to five years in prison for killing Duane (Jon Jon) Lacquette.
The body of 21-year-old Lacquette was found lying on the basement floor of his home on the 3600-block of Centennial Boulevard on Jan. 16, 2010.
Ouimet, a soldier posted at CFB Shilo, was arrested on Feb. 4, 2010.
He later pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced on June 7.
He maintained that he’d fallen asleep at a drinking party and awoke to find Lacquette sexually assaulting him. Ouimet then choked Lacquette to death.
What is likely the most dramatic arrest of the year came in April:
• An international manhunt for a suspect accused of sexually assaulting boys in the Brandon area during the 1980s ended in Spain.
Iain Kenneth Smy, 49, was arrested in Malaga, Spain, on April 30.
The former Brandon resident’s initial arrest was announced in October 2009. He was arrested in Sarnia, Ont., in connection with sexual assaults allegedly committed against three 11- to 15-year-old boys in the 1980s.
He was released on bail in November 2009 but missed a court date and couldn’t be found by police.
Investigators, however, got a tip that he was in Spain.
Smy has since been extradited to Canada and his case remains before the courts.
The year also brought controversy:
• In March, Brandon senior Ernie Galatiuk was ticketed for using a cellphone while driving.
There was just one problem — Galatiuk didn’t own a cellphone.
He vowed to fight the $200 ticket, but the Crown attorney quickly dropped the charge citing low probability of a conviction.
• On March 5, Brandon Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Robert Cummings acquitted Gerald Vermette of criminal negligence causing death following a trial.
Jason Hargreaves, 22, of Brandon was killed on June 27, 2009. His car hit a harrow which Vermette had abandoned at the side of Highway 16 near Russell.
The harrow partially blocked one of the eastbound lanes. Vermette failed to turn on the truck’s hazard lights, failed to connect the harrow’s lights to the truck so they would work and failed to notify police.
The only warning of the harrow in the dark — which was also partly blocked to the view of approaching motorists by a rise in the road — were some reflective markings.
Despite that, Justice Cummings ruled that the evidence didn’t meet the legal test of "wanton and reckless" and entered an acquittal on the criminal negligence charge.
On Sept. 14, in provincial court, Vermette received his only court-imposed penalty for the fatal crash — a $2,000 fine for illegally parking on a highway under the Highway Traffic Act.
Arson also made headlines in 2012:
• On Feb. 28, 21-year-old Joey Michael Yates of Oak Lake was sentenced in Brandon court to two years in jail for burning down the historic 115-year-old grain elevator in Fleming, Sask.
Yates admitted pouring the gas used to set the Feb. 9, 2010, fire. He said a man had promised money to burn down the building which was to be converted into a museum.
• On April 4, 75-year-old Robert Long died in an early-morning fire that destroyed his two-storey house on the 200-block of First Street.
Ashtyn Franklin James Richard has been ordered to stand trial on charges of manslaughter and arson with disregard for human life. No date for the trial has been set.
• There’s still no word of arrests for a multimillion-dollar arson in Virden.
In the early morning of Sept. 9, firefighters arrived to find the True Value Hardware building on fire and a seniors’ fourplex next door beginning to burn.
Nobody was hurt, but both buildings were destroyed.
Within days, police announced that the hardware building/fourplex fire was arson, with damage estimated at more than $2.5 million.
• That same month, two teens were punished for another high-profile arson case.
Two drunk 15-year-olds stole a jerry can full of gas from a shed during a break-in spree that ended in the early morning of June 13.
That’s when the teens went to a house on the 200-block of 28th Street. One teen pored gas on a sports car parked under a carport attached to the home and the other teen lit it.
The fire spread from the carport to the house.
A couple and their two daughters escaped the fire, but it caused $800,000 damage to the house and contents. Another $145,000 damage was done to four vehicles.
The teens later both pleaded guilty to arson with disregard for human life and other offences.
They each received 10 months in jail on top of time served in pre-sentence custody, followed by five months supervision in the community and then 18 months probation.
Guns was another crime theme in 2012:
• Twelve handguns were stolen during a burglary at Jo-Brook Firearms on July 3.
Thieves entered through a locked back door and foiled locked display cabinets.
The guns haven’t been found and no suspects have been identified.
• On June 28, Charles Kevin Starr was sentenced to one year under house arrest for a pair of raids that turned up weapons.
In July 2010, police had raided Starr’s Westaway Bay home and found a pellet rifle, two high-powered crossbows with arrows and a pair of ballistic vests.
They also found a key piece of evidence — a photo on an iPod that showed Starr clutching a pair of semi-automatic rifles.
He was wearing a T-Shirt adorned with the words, "If you can read this, you're in range."
Those assault rifles were found on Oct. 10, 2011, during a second raid at Glen Avenue home.
They were in a safe with 10 handguns, two sawed-off shotguns, two long-barrelled shotguns, five hunting rifles, a sawed-off rifle and numerous rounds of assorted ammunition.
Starr ultimately pleaded guilty to careless storage of a firearm and three counts of possessing weapons contrary to a court order.
• On July 29, a soldier was shot in the leg during a dispute at his housing unit at CFB Shilo.
It’s alleged that a man had been punched in the face as he was ejected from a party at the home. That man then returned with a semi-automatic handgun and shot his assailant.
It’s further alleged that another shot was fired at the shooting victim’s roommate.
Clarence Joseph Stillman, a soldier stationed at the base, was charged with two counts of attempted murder.
At last report, the case was still making its way through the military justice system.
Then there were the strange and odd:
• On July 6, Eugenia Flores was cooking in her kitchen while her two-month-old daughter sat in a small swing that rested in the hallway near the front door of the house.
The door was left open to allow a cool breeze into the home on a hot day.
At one point, Flores turned around from her work in the kitchen and spotted a man, a complete stranger, cradling her baby.
She shouted at the man who walked out of the house with the girl but, thankfully, left the child unharmed on the front lawn before he ran off.
No arrest was made.
• Then there’s the case of the Greyhound groper.
On Sept. 13, Marc Jerome Louis, 61, was sentenced to jail for groping a woman as she slept on a Greyhound bus.
Louis was a passenger on the bus on July 7, as was the victim who was a stranger to him.
As the bus travelled near Virden, the woman awoke to find her boyfriend yelling at Louis who was pulling his hands away from her thighs.
Louis had groped the woman over her clothes and even put his hands down her pants.
He pleaded guilty to sexual assault and breach of a bail order for failing to live in Toronto where he was pending on five counts of sexual assault for similar allegations.
For the bus offence, he was sentenced to 120 days minus 69 days time served.
This year may be known as the year of the "lewd act":
• In August, a CFB Shilo soldier was sentenced to 12 days in military jail for disgraceful conduct.
Bradley Bennett, a 24-year-old gunner with 1RCHA, was found guilty of disgraceful conduct under the National Defence Act.
He was accused of masturbating while watching two women in a changing room at the base recreation centre.
It was just one of many "lewd" acts reported early in 2012.
Within the first six months of this year, there were at least 10 reports of men committing lewd acts in public in both Brandon and Shilo.
The remaining incidents remain unsolved.
The last year also saw the biggest drug bust in the history of the Brandon Police Service:
• In October, police announced that they seized a total of $2 million worth of ecstasy, marijuana, cocaine and psilocybin during searches at three southern Manitoba properties.
At one property near Gilbert Plains, police seized 270 pounds of marijuana and two kilograms of cocaine. They also found a large amount of money and numerous firearms.
A property near Kemnay was also searched police seized a large amount of currency, a pound of ecstasy and two firearms.
A small amount of marijuana, psilocybin and a gun was found at a Brandon-area property.
In total, six people were charged in relation to the searches at all three properties.
One lawsuit stood out among the rest in 2012:
• A patient who was hit and injured by a man who jumped to his death at the Brandon hospital atrium is suing Prairie Mountain Health.
In a statement of claim filed on Dec. 17, the man claims unspecified damages for injuries he suffered on July 8, 2011.
That’s when a man committed suicide by jumping off the fourth-floor balcony that overlooks the hospital atrium.
The falling man landed on the patient who was seated in a wheelchair on the ground floor.
The patient claims that he suffered injuries that included a fractured leg and mental trauma.
He claims he was left unable to perform his regular work duties and had to pay costs associated with medication, medical trips and for wheelchair repair.
He says the regional health authority should have done more to prevent people from falling or jumping from balconies that overlook the atrium.
Especially as a woman had also jumped to her death about six months before.
The health region has yet to file a statement of defence.