Sentencing handed down for man responsible for Jan. 24, 2018 death of Gabriolan Jay Dearman

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, February 23 2021

William Goosman of Gabriola Island was sentenced in Nanaimo Court today, to two years (minus one day) by Justice Robin A. M. Baird, for causing the death of Jay Dearman on January 24, 2018.

Goosman pled guilty in November of 2020, having been the driver and owner of the van which struck and killed Dearman as he was jogging eastbound on Berry Point Road east of Twin Beaches around 8:30am.

Goosman will also serve 18 months probation; and is banned from operating a vehicle during his sentence time; and for five years after his sentence is served.

Judge Baird had explained to the court that in the case of a ‘joint sentence request’ from Crown and Defense, there is a need for him to ratify that joint submission unless, “I am persuaded that it would be contrary of public interest to do so.”

When given an opportunity to speak for himself, Goosman said, “I want to apologize for what happened, I feel absolutely terrible about it. And I want to do what I can to make up for it.”

The lawyers for the Crown and Defense had submitted a ‘joint sentence request’ to the Judge, asking for a sentence of two years, minus a day, for Goosman.

The maximum allowable sentence for dangerous driving causing death is 14 years.

However, as explained by Crown Counsel Brett Webber, the two years sentence was comparable to other recent judgements of similar cases.

‘Minus a day’ means Goosman would not be remanded to a federal facility, but rather will serve his prison sentence in a provincial facility, with Crown, Defense, and the Judge  recommending Goosman serve his time at Guthrie House, a facility run by B.C. Corrections in partnership with the John Howard Society to deliver a unique program for offenders with addictions at the Nanaimo Correctional Centre.

Webber said while a lengthier sentence sending Goosman to a federal institution would provide suitable punitive measures, it would do nothing for any kind of rehabilitation for Goosman.

Due to COVID-19 concerns, the 30-seat courtroom had only six chairs available for members of the public.

Jay’s wife Suzanne Dearman was present with her sister. The other four seats were occupied by local area media.

 

Suzanne Dearman speaks to media following the sentencing hearing
in Nanaimo Court on Feb. 23, 2021. Derek Kilbourn photo

 

Suzanne, along with Gabriolan Tina Lynch, were jogging with Jay on the day of his death.

The Judge had received numerous Victim Impact Statements, and had read all of them prior to the hearing. Suzanne had asked for and was given an opportunity to read hers aloud.

From the witness box, and looking directly at Goosman, Suzanne stated, “Jay was my best friend, husband and life partner.

“I wrote a statement shortly after the accident, which I was going to read today. When I read it again, I realized it was far too raw, too graphic, and painful. 

“I found it difficult to know what to say. Thinking about the three years and how my life has changed. Losing Jay has altered my life in devastating ways.”

Suzanne described how she tried going back to her job at the Gabriola Library, but how she was unable to continue there anymore.

“We used to find such joy in socializing with friends and family, and I’m unable to do so. Holidays, birthdays, they pass by as reminders of immense loss. Leaving me with an emptiness.”

Her family, her two daughters, their husbands, and their children, have all been devestated by the loss.

“They were so close - we spent holidays together. Most importantly he was their support system. Nothing can take the place of a father’s love for his children and grandchildren.”

Eldest grandson Koa is now 5, but still asks where his grandfather has gone. The Dearman’s daughter was only four months pregnant with granddaughter Hazel when Jay was killed.

“He was taken from us, our family was broken apart.

“Jay was a good man and dedicated so much of his life to helping others.”

Suzanne said one of his dreams had been to become a firefighter, and when they moved to Gabriola, that dream came true as he joined the Gabriola Volunteer Fire Department.

“He was never happier than when they manage to save someone, he would be on cloud nine for days. He was there for people he cared about. The community of Gabriola has been shaken.”

Suzanne said to Goosman, “because of the terrible decisions you made that morning, Jay’s life was taken from him far too soon. 

“It makes me wonder asking what you have been doing for three years, while I was picking out Jay’s coffin. When I had to call my daughters to tell them their dad was killed; or his mom and dad to tell them their son was dead, and listen to their screams over the phone.”

Suzanne said to Goosman that she holds him, “fully responsible for Jay’s death. We all make our decisions. You made the decision to drive, and because of that decision Jay is dead.”

Suzanne said she wants Goosman to be put away, that she is tired of running the risk of seeing him whenever she goes out. Both Suzanne and Goosman have continued to reside on Gabriola since Jay’s death.

“Up to this point, I never wished you any harm, and I don’t still. But what I want is just for you to take responsibility.

“I would rather see you go to rehab if I thought it would work....I would challenge you, I would go with you to schools to talk to people about this.

“You could have killed a child that day driving through the school zone.”

Three witnesses had made statements during the preliminary hearings in 2019, describing witnessing Goosman’s erratic driving just prior to events.

One witness, dropping her son off at the Elementary School, saw him driving at what she described as highway speeds, through the 30kph school zone.

Another driver, headed towards the ferry on  Taylor Bay Road, had to pull over to not get hit by Goosman’s van, which had crossed the centre line.

The third driver - also westbound towards the ferry - said he also had to swerve to not get hit by Goosman on Berry Point Road, and saw in his rear view mirror Goosman’s van still swerving erratically, and joggers on the road.

As Judge Baird said, one of those joggers was likely Jay Dearman.

Addressing Suzanne, Judge Baird said, “it goes without saying this is an appalling tragedy. You are absolutely right, Ms. Dearman that nothing I say, nothing I do today can bring back Jay. Or much mollify you for the enormous loss you have sustained.

“You, and Carla, Sarah, your two grandsons, and little Hazel, who hadn’t yet made her debut on Jan. 24, 2018.

“I don’t blame you at all for thinking that whatever the law requires me to do today isn’t a very punitive gesture or compensation. 

“I realize that, and at the same time, I’m frankly touched and to a degree I am taken aback how measured your response has been to this has been. Saying that there was no bringing Jay back. Expressing very clearly how cruel a blow this has been. But expressing the hope at the same time that Mr. Goosman will seek help, that he will turn his life around, and he would go forth in his life from this and cause no further harm to anybody. To pull up his socks and to make something of his life. 

“Your response to this tragedy has been i my view heroic. 

“I have been involved in the criminal justice system for all of my life. Most recently as a judge, and these experiences harden one a little bit. 

“And yet I don’t mind telling you that I was very moved by your victim impact statement, and by the victim impact statement of your daughters.

““On behalf of of this entire court, I’d like to express my sorrow and condolences to you, to your daughters, your grandchildren, to your many siblings, to Jay Dearman’s parents, to his friends, both here and elsewhere. 

“To the community of Gabriola Island of which he played a large part, was a useful contributing member.”

Following the accident, investigators determined through interviewing Goosman that he had been up most of the night. He was having issues sleeping and had recently started a prescription for suboxone, as part of treatment for his opioid addiction. He had also been drinking, and told RCMP his last drink had been around 6am. An on-scene breathalyzer test found his blood-alcohol to be at 0.028, well short of the 0.08 legal limit. No other toxicology information was provided during the case. Goosman had, prior to driving himself, called a friend to give him a ride but was refused.

Prior to handing down the sentence, Judge Baird addressed Goosman.

“The sentence that is being proposed is within a range of sentences that has been repeatedly endorsed, as acceptable in a case such as this.

“But I want you to firmly understand, this is at the lower end of the range. I’m going to do what I’ve been asked to do today, because if I didn’t, I think I would be overruled.

“I want you to understand the sentence imposed today could have been heavier. 

“And to the extent that the full magnitude of your wrongdoing has not sunk in with you, it’s my hope the sentence I will impose today will act as a corrective. 

“Your conduct on Jan. 24 of 2018 was nothing short of abysmal. You and you alone are responsible for the death of this beloved family man, only 58, his mother is still alive. You took all of it away from him. 

“You’ve deprived his wife, they had been married for 30 years, they were life partners. Loving parents with adoring daughters who had a happy childhood in the home they shared with their mother and father.

“Working hard. Making a contribution. Giving back to the community, that’s the Jay I have read about, across these victim impact statements. What you did has hurt a great many people. 

“The mere idea that a man like Jay Dearman should go out for a jog, of a winter’s morning, to be taken out, by somebody who wasn’t fit to drive, careening about the island in what I can only describe as an uncontrolled and dangerous fashion is of course lamentable. And woeful to think about. 

“Ms. Dearman says it could have been a kid. 

“It could have been anybody just minding their own business. 

“The degree of your disregard for your fellow citizens is astonishing to me. And part of the reason I’m sending you to jail is to punish you for what you have done and to bring it home to you that there is no excuse whatsoever for it.”

“Hazel made her appearance after you killed her grandfather. These children are young, and you Mr. Goosman have deprived them of a very nourishing childhood. I have no idea that he would have looked out for them and cared for them. He may have had that relationship well into his grandchildren’s adulthood. 

“Many impact statements have been submitted. It is abundantly clear he was a widely respected and loved person. His loss to all of those persons is incalculable. 

“Our community has been substantially diminished by his premature and unexpected departure from amongst us. The blow caused by his death to all of us is particularly cruel because it was untimely, violent, and perhaps above all, it was completely and totally avoidable. 

“One of Jay Dearman’s lifelong passions, of which there were many, was distance running with his friends. This was what he was doing when he died. With his wife Suzanne and friend Tina Lynch.”

The judge noted at this point that a mechanical inspection of Goosman’s vehicle found no reason for mechanical failure to have caused the accident.

He also noted that for Goosman to strike Dearman, Goosman had to cross from the eastbound lane, across the entire westbound lane, and then over the fog line and into the paved pedestrian area of Berry Point Road.

Judge Baird said Goosman, “should have been travelling cautiously and safely, within the eastbound lane, instead because he was in no fit condition to drive, probably because he hadn’t had enough sleep, possibly because he had some alcohol. 

“By his own admissions to police he should not have been driving.

“You [Goosman] should never gotten behind the wheel.

“It bears emphasis that the accused was seen by other motorists. The first of these saw the accused barreling past the local elementary school at highway speeds in a 30kph school zone at the very time of day children were being dropped off at school. The person who made this report had just dropped her son off at school and was leaving. Children were being dropped by when you went haring by it at freeway speed, it’s unbelievable. 

“The third witness had barely arrived at the ferry terminal when he heard the sirens, members of the local first responder community going to treat, unsuccessfully, one of their own. 

“I don’t know what you were up to that night. You had troubles sleeping. I also bear in mind you called a friend to pick you up. Friend turned you down. All of which says you know you shouldn’t have gotten behind the wheel.”

The Judge noted that prior to the events of Jan. 24, Goosman had no criminal record, he hadn’t even had a traffic violation.

“He says, and I hope you [Goosman] mean this, he says he takes full responsibility.”

Again looking directly at Goosman, Judge Baird said, “this sentence is at the lower end of the range, and I think you can be grateful to [defense] counsel and Crown counsel for the measured approach they have taken with this case. 

“This I consider to be a break for you Goosman. I hope you are going to honour Ms. Dearman - to make the most of this.

“It is recommended you might very well benefit from the program at Guthrie house, and I am prepared to make a recommendation you serve there. In that facility you will be given every opportunity to turn your life around and at the age of 50, I can say it is high time.”

The probation following the sentence was set at 18 months, and the Judge said part of the reason for making that order was to both assist Goosman in his ongoing rehabilitation, but also to save, “Ms. Dearman from the irritation in a small community of having to set eyes on you all the time. I think you can understand why that might be upsetting for Ms. Dearman to go about her daily business and see you hear and there.”

Probation will also involve Goosman taking and successfully completing any course of counseling or treatment recommended by his probation officer, including residential treatment if recommended. 

“You are to have no contact whatsoever directly or indirectly with Suzanne Dearman. And you are not to go or be found within 300 yards of her residence or any place known to you as her place of employment. Stay away from her, knowing that to see her is a sense of grief to her. Make yourself scarce if you are to come anywhere near her.”

Before closing, the Judge once more turned to Suzanne saying, “Ms. Dearman, thank you very much for attending today and contribution to this hearing, and once again, I and everyone else is very sorry for your loss.”