|Tina and her husband Dan Dowdall. Tina's father Steve Tuck was driving home from work when he was struck and killed Aug. 25, 2009. (Tracy McLaughlin/QMI Agency)
BARRIE, ONT. - A 15-year-old Barrie, Ont. teen who stole a car and crashed and killed a man as he fled from police was sentenced to six months in secure custody, on top of six months he has already served in jail.
The teen, who cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, was also sentenced to an additional three months of community supervision and 18 months probation and he is prohibited from driving for ten years.
He was charged with dangerous driving causing death while fleeing from police, failing to stop and possession of a stolen vehicle.
Steve Tuck, 48, was driving home from work when he was struck and killed Aug. 25, 2009.
Court heard a police officer spotted the stolen yellow Mitsubishi Lancer and pulled the teen over, but the he sped off on residential streets, reaching speeds of 138 km/h when he crossed an intersection and T-boned another vehicle.
Court heard the teen is fixated with cars and suffers from Asperger syndrome, a form of high-functioning autism.
Two days before Tuck was killed, the teen stole the car and drove it right off the Mitsubishi car lot in Barrie and kept it parked on the road near his home without his parents knowing. On the day Tuck was killed, the teen drove the stolen vehicle to another dealer and asked if he could test-drive a new car. He left when employees became suspicious.
A week earlier, the teen stole a Black Pontiac from another car dealer and was arrested and released with a court date. In the year before that, he also stole a car from an auto shop and went on a joyride, but he was never charged.
A psychiatric report showed the teen has had ongoing problems with accessing child porn on the Internet, stealing and having outbursts of anger; and that he has limited ability to feel empathy for others.
In court, Crown attorney Julie Evans noted psychiatric reports show the teen is a risk to re-offend and she urged the judge to find that Asperger syndrome is not an excuse to steal cars.
“He knew exactly what he was doing when he stole the car,” said Evans, noting in both car thefts the teen had a set of licence plates that he affixed to the car before he drove it. “This was a bold and brazen act with devastating results.” In court, tears flowed as family members read victim impact statements.
“There is an empty chair at family get-togethers,” said his mother, Frieda, in a victim impact statement. “I think of how he died, alone on the roadside, with no one there beside him.” “He was my best friend, my lover, my everything,” said his wife, Nora. “Do you ever wake in the night thinking something that has happened is just a nightmare?” Brothers, sisters and friends also wept in court as they read about their memories of Tuck. They talked about his first grandchild, who was born a month after he died.
“I’m sorry,” said the teen in court. “I’m sorry for what I have caused your family.” In an unusual move, his parents asked the judge to give their son more time in custody so that he can get treatment.
“We are over our heads,” said the teen’s mother as she stood weeping before the judge and holding hands with her son. She said she has been seeking help from the province since her son was diagnosed as a child, but to no avail.
The judge explained she is bound by the rules of the Youth Criminal Justice Act and could not sentence the teen to custody and probation for a combined total of more than three years.
She made a recommendation that the teen serve the six months custody in Syl Apps Youth Centre in Oakville, a treatment facility operated by Kinark Child and Family Services.
Outside of court, Tucks’ family said they were upset after learning the judge was bound to keep the combined sentence and probation to three years under the rules of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
“It’s outrageous,” said Tuck’s son, Brad. “I sat and watched him the entire time. He didn’t care. He looked bored.” “It’s the YCJA that is the tragedy,” said Tuck’s son-in-law, Dan Dowdall.
“You kill somebody in a vehicle and you can only get three years? It’s crap.
It’s a system we should get rid of."