‘I miss her smile’: Family of Winnipeg grandmother killed in hit-and-run awaits sentencing

By | December 4, 2019

Family of a Winnipeg grandmother killed in a hit-and-run over two years ago will wait at least another week before learning the fate of the man behind the wheel of the stolen pickup truck that left her dead.

Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench Justice James Edmond reserved his sentencing decision Wednesday after hearing emotional victim impact statements from the family of Marlene Eusanio.

Browne, 41, pleaded guilty in September to dangerous driving causing death, criminal negligence causing death and failure to stay at the scene of an accident involving death. The dangerous driving charge was later stayed.

Court heard 61-year-old Eusanio’s final day alive was sunny and warm; she and her husband snacked on fish and chips at The Forks on Aug. 3, 2017.

As they parked on Marion Street on the way home to head into the Dollar Store, Eusanio’s life was cut short.

Marlene Eusanio, 61, was killed in a a hit-and-run crash on Marion Street near Traverse Avenue on Aug. 3, 2017. (Supplied by Eusanio family)

The driver of a stolen pickup truck towing a stolen trailer, now known to be Browne, veered into a lane of parked cars after cutting off a driver and swerving across three lanes on Marion near Traverse Avenue.

Eusanio was hit and killed in the process. Her husband waited by her side until emergency crews arrived.

“He covered her, he wanted to keep her dignity,” Eusanio’s adult son, Trevor Mackenzie, said of his father while weeping in court.

“He held her and he comforted her and this is the burden he wears.”

‘I have nightmares’

He also read a statement on behalf of his father, Jean Louis Eusanio, who was present but too emotional to read it himself.

Jean Louis now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and was forced to retire early because he couldn’t work.

“There are no words strong enough to say how my life has been destroyed,” Trevor said, reading his father Jean Louis’ words.

“I have nightmares, I don’t sleep very well, and now I’m overmedicated. I see a counsellor and a shrink. The most important thing is I miss her smile and her smell so much.”

Winnipeg police released this image of the suspect vehicle and trailer one day after the fatal hit and run in 2017. (WPS)

A tip and surveillance footage released by Winnipeg police one day after the crash led to Browne’s eventual arrest on Dec. 1 in Regina, where he was already in custody charged with a weapon and vehicle theft, court heard.

Browne’s friends were caught on camera washing the truck stolen by Browne, Serbin said, and a search of his computer history showed he had searched online for media coverage of the crash more than a dozen times in the days after. 

Browne had 27 prior convictions spanning two decades and five provinces, including six for driving offences, as of the time of the accident, court heard. He was also driving while under a federal criminal ban not do so, as well as a regional ban in B.C.

Crown seeks 14 years

Crown prosecutors Michael Donald and Melissa Serbin asked Justice Edmond to impose a 14-year sentence.

“This offence occurred in the middle of the day and is every pedestrians worst nightmare,” said Serbin.

A 1999 Supreme Court of Canada ruling stipulates sentencing judges have to take into account what’s known as Gladue factors when sentencing Indigenous offenders — including a history of drug or substance abuse, victimization, or experience in residential schools or the child welfare system.

‘This accident haunts me everyday.’ ​​​​– Gater Browne

Serbin noted while 41-year-old Browne’s Indigenous background (he’s Métis) should be weighed carefully when coming to a sentence length, he also comes from a supportive family and has a significant track record of criminal activity and driving offences. 

Serbin outlined past involvement in the drug trade and gang life in B.C., and several unrelated driving offences that include fleeing a peace officer.

He also has shown little motivation to rehabilitate in his three times serving federal prison terms over the past two decades, according to Corrections Canada, said Serbin.

“He has shown that he is dangerous time after time in his sentencing and continues to ignore the rules of his release and driving bans”, said Serbin.

‘He drove recklessly’

Browne’s defence lawyers Mat Schwartz and Tom Reece are seeking a seven-year prison sentence.

Reece suggested that though Browne was driving a stolen vehicle and trailer, the events that day happened quickly and over a 15-metre stretch of Marion. There was no evidence he was speeding or that he was driving erratically leading up the crash, said Reece.

“We acknowledge that he drove recklessly and their were tragic consequences,” said Reece, adding Browne is remorseful.

Browne’s cries could be heard several times throughout the proceedings Wednesday. He grabbed a fistful of tissues before approaching a podium to address the family.

“This accident haunts me everyday,” Browne said. 

“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about what happened … I hope and pray that you can forgive me of this tragedy. I am so very sorry.”

Edmond is expected to deliver a decision on Dec. 11.