By Delon Shurtz
Southern Alberta Newspapers
A southern Alberta man who slammed into a vehicle more than three years ago, killing the elderly driver, has been sentenced to five years in a federal penitentiary.
Wesley Brian Phillips was sentenced last week in Lethbridge Court of King’s Bench, where he pleaded guilty to one count of failing to provide a breath sample following an accident causing death.
Phillips was driving his Volkswagen Jetta west on Highway 3 shortly after 7 p.m. on Nov. 25, 2019 when he smashed into a Ford Escape that was stopped at a stop sign and waiting to enter the highway from Coalhurst.
The driver of the Escape, 66-year-old Elizabeth Ment, was the only occupant of the vehicle and died in the collision.
“Mr. Phillips travelled from the through-lanes into the turn lane that turns into Coalhurst, and continued straight, striking a concrete curb island,” reads an agreed statement of facts submitted to the court.
“The curb provided a slight vaulting action to the Volkswagen, causing the front end of the vehicle to come off the ground. The front end of the Volkswagen impacted Ms. Ments’ driver’s side of the Ford, intruding and embedding into Ms. Ments’ life space.”
Phillips was seen stumbling in a field away from the collision, and when he was apprehended, he smelled of alcohol, as did his vehicle. During a search of Phillip’s vehicle, police found an open mickey of vodka on the floor in front of the passenger seat.
Phillips was taken to the hospital where he refused to provide samples of his breath for police. Police ultimately obtained a warrant to take a sample of Phillip’s blood, the analysis of which showed his blood-alcohol concentration was between 180 and 205 mg per cent.
An RCMP forensic science and identification services lab determined the blood-alcohol concentration would have been between 190 and 224 mg per cent – up to three times the legal limit – at the time of the collision.
Phillips was released from remand custody shortly after he was charged, but was re-arrested and released several times afterward until February, 2022 in provincial court when he was refused bail. Phillips was again denied bail following a detention review in Court of King’s Bench last June, and again in November.
He was scheduled to begin a three-week judge and jury trial on Jan. 30 on charges of impaired driving causing death, dangerous driving causing death, failure to provide a breath sample after an accident causing death, and breach of probation. The trial was cancelled, however, after his latest lawyer, who had only recently taken over the case, was unavailable on the scheduled dates, and needed more time to prepare.
Phillip’s previous lawyer had gotten off the record in December, citing a breakdown in the solicitor-client relationship.
Only weeks before Phillips pleaded guilty he and his lawyer had been planning to schedule new trial dates.
In addition to his prison term, for which he was given credit for three years spent in remand custody, Phillips will be prohibited from driving for five years after he is released. He must also submit a sample of his DNA for the National DNA Data Bank. The remaining charges were withdrawn following Phillip’s guilty plea.