Woman charged in deadly North York hit-and-run sentenced to 5 years in prison
Rachael D'Amore, CTV News Toronto
Published Thursday, May 10, 2018 9:38AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, May 10, 2018 6:51PM EDT
A 28-year-old woman charged in connection with a North York hit-and-run that claimed the life of a New Brunswick woman has been sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to impaired driving causing death.
Erin Wright was arrested on Oct. 14, 2017 following a 10-day Toronto police investigation into the death of Debbie Graves.
Graves had just finished having dinner with a coworker at a restaurant near York Mills and Don Mills roads on Oct. 4 when a car mounted the curb and struck her.
It was alleged that Wright fled the scene and later brought her damaged, silver Nissan Rouge crossover into an East York auto shop for repairs.
She was named a “person of interest” after police located the vehicle at the shop one week later.
Wright was initially charged with operation of a motor vehicle causing death, failure to stop at the scene of an accident causing death, obstruction of police and impaired driving causing death.
She was released on $101,000 bail in October.
At a court appearance on Thursday morning, Wright pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing death while the other charges were dropped. She was then sentenced to five years in jail following a joint submission by the defence and the Crown.
She was also handed a four year driving prohibition that will take effect following her release from prison.
In an agreed statement of facts, the Crown and defense said that Wright had been drinking at a bar at Fairview Mall the night of the crash. She is said to have ordered eight tequila shots and two beers over the course of two hours and was seen on security camera consuming seven of those shots.
The video also reportedly showed Wright stumbling out of the bar, getting into her vehicle and driving away.
Wright told the courts she did not know she hit a person and parked her car on a nearby street so she could sleep. When she woke up the next morning, Wright said she called a friend and said she thought she hit a pole and later took her car in for repairs.
According to the agreed statement of facts, a piece of her vehicle became dislodged during the crash and was left at the scene. That single piece helped police track down Wright’s vehicle, which later led to her arrest.
At the height of the case, police suggested that Wright did not cooperate with the investigation prior to her arrest. Wright’s lawyer, however, told CTV News Toronto that she tried to surrender herself to police days before but was told by investigators she ‘wasn’t wanted yet.’
Sixty-three-year-old Graves was in Toronto for work when she was killed.
A number of Grave’s family members travelled from the east coast to face Wright in court on Thursday.
In victim impact statements, the Riverview, New Brunswick woman was described by her daughters as “a rock” for the family who “cared about everybody.” They said Graves was the primary caregiver for her own aging parents.
Sarah and Caitlin Crawford noted that this upcoming Mother’s Day will be their first without a mother. They said they’re often kept awake at night by the thought of the pain Graves endured in her final moments.
“Criminal proceedings are done but our mom is gone and nothing is going to change that,” Sarah Crawford told reporters outside the courtroom. “Five years is a short amount of time compared to a lifetime without our mother and we feel that Canadian law sentencing for impaired driving doesn’t reflect the severity of our loss.”
Caitlin Crawford expressed similar sentiments, describing the loss their family is enduring as “so profound.”
“Five years seems too short for that,” she said. “We miss our mom and we’re going to miss her forever.”
During the proceedings, both the judge and Wright’s lawyer noted that she appeared apologetic and took responsibility for her problem with alcohol.
A letter written by Wright was read aloud in the court, illustrated her regret for her actions.
“Knowing that I have taken her from each and every one of you kills me every day,” the letter read.
“If I could rewrite that night, take everything back, I would do it in a second.”
Wright has already completed an alcohol treatment program but intends to continue getting help while in prison.