The family of a woman who was killed in a 2012 car crash in Abbotsford will have to endure another delay in the court case for the man charged.
Michael Larocque, 48, appeared Friday in Abbotsford provincial court in what was expected to be a possible sentencing in the case, but the matter was delayed until May 22 for evidence to be heard into whether his guilty plea should be set aside.
Eileen Kleinfelder, 67, of Chilliwack died on Oct. 15, 2012, when she was travelling north on the Highway 11 bypass (Sumas Way) in Abbotsford and was struck head-on by a southbound van that crossed the centre lane.
Larocque was charged in October 2015 with criminal negligence causing death in relation to the crash and pleaded guilty in March 2018 to the lesser charge of dangerous driving causing death.
A sentencing hearing later took place in which both lawyers presented their submissions. All that was left was for the judge to give her ruling on Larocque’s sentence a few weeks later.
But during that appearance, Larocque indicated that he wanted to reverse his guilty plea, and fired his lawyer.
His second lawyer later removed himself from the case, and Larocque is now on his third counsel.
Larocque filed his application and an affidavit on Jan. 21 of this year to overturn his guilty plea, and the Crown’s summary dismissal application – to have the plea stand – was heard on Feb. 15.
Larocque was supposed to show up in person for that date, but, when he didn’t appear, the matter was done by phone.
The next appearance took place last Friday, at which time Eileen’s granddaughter, Natasha Weiss, and Weiss’ mom (Eileen’s daughter-in-law), Maureen Kleinfelder, expected that the judge would give her ruling.
If the judge allowed the guilty plea to be set aside, the matter would then proceed to trial. If she didn’t approve the application, then Weiss and Kleinfelder expected that the matter would proceed to sentencing.
But the judge instead indicated that Larocque should have an opportunity to testify in open court about why he believes his guilty plea should be struck.
“Given that the consequences of a summary dismissal of the application are grave, I must be satisfied that a miscarriage of justice will not occur,” she said.
The judge said that Larocque had indicated he wants to change his guilty plea because he “no longer accepts that his driving fell below the standard of care expected of a reasonably prudent person in similar circumstances.”
Larocque and his lawyer said that he does not feel he was given improper advice from his first lawyer when he pleaded guilty.
The judge emphasized that she will not hear any arguments that state otherwise when the matter next proceeds to court on May 22.
She also said she will not allow the hearing to be postponed.
“I’m not going to allow this matter to drag on any further than it has … Anybody whether legally trained or not, looking at this file is going to conclude that this has taken way too long.”
Weiss and Kleinfelder previously expressed frustration at the number of delays in the case, including the numerous times that Larocque has failed to turn up for a scheduled court date.