Deborah Titus, the 64-year-old victim of a fatal hit-and-run last fall, was a “sweet, loving woman,” who “would have given the shirt off her back,” according to her family members.
She was even prepared to help two strangers who approached her in a dental office parking lot, inquiring if she had change for a $50 bill, said Crown attorney Stephen Monaghan.
One of those two strangers was Brittany Boyce, a 29-year-old woman who was given six-and-a-half years in federal prison during Thursday’s sentencing, after an attempt to steal Titus’ purse turned fatal on Nov. 21, 2017.
She pleaded guilty to manslaughter last year, and pleaded guilty to assault with a weapon and theft under $5,000 on Thursday in the hit-and-run death.
“Whenever I was feeling down, I could always count on the love of my mom to put a smile on my face,” read the victim impact statement of Titus’ son, Jason Titus.
He found out his mother was killed when he logged onto Facebook at a library the day after, and has had night terrors and a difficult time sleeping ever since.
“It’s not the way I deserve to find out,” he wrote.
Titus’ older brother, Bob Chemney, didn’t mince words when he called the hit and run “stupid.”
Despite the trouble sleeping, the time spent on the couch, and how often he cries, Chemney hopes Boyce’s sentence will provide the time she needs to think about her actions, and her addiction to drugs.
“I don’t want her children to be without their mother,” he said, in a moment of empathy for the woman responsible in his little sister’s death.
Defence lawyer Jim Dean painted a grim picture of his client’s life, marked with physical and emotional abuse starting when she was young.
He told Justice Wayne Rabley how she was abused as a child by a stepfather who would call her a “whore.” She left home at 14, and at 16 was thrown down a set of stairs by a partner and left with spinal cord injuries, he explained.
That led to six months in a wheelchair, and a prescription to opioids that led her into a struggle with addiction.
By the time she was 18, Dean said Boyce was using opioids and powder cocaine every five to six hours.
She was an escort for three years, he added.
But there were times when things were going well for Boyce, Dean explained. She had a solid relationship with the father of her first child, and the CAS had once described her as “being able to manage and care for her children.”
Dean told the court how she relapsed, then did well while involved with another man, then relapsed again after they had their second daughter — her third child — together.
But when she’s sober, Dean said she’s “very bright,” and has “huge potential.”
He asked the judge for a three- to five-year sentence.
The Crown asked for an eight- to 10-year sentence, arguing that Boyce made a number of decisions that day in November and had “preyed” on a senior member of the community.
A piece of paper clutched in trembling hands, Boyce read out the comments she wanted to offer Titus’ family.
“The pain that grabs my heart is so intense, such as losing one of my own,” she said.
“I truly feel in debt to God, for the rest of my life.”
“I’m sorry, please know this.”
In handing down his sentence, Justice Rabley said Boyce was in no doubt responsible for Titus’ death, and that her actions were selfish.
She chose to flee the scene after the vehicle “went right over Ms. Titus and bounced to the ground,” and she showed no regard for Titus’ life or the life of the dental office employee injured while trying to intervene, he said.
But Rabley also gave her credit for pleading guilty early in the case, and for showing remorse.
“You have a long road ahead of you,” he said, noting that it was an opportunity for her to turn her life around.
“You’re at a crucial point in your life. Who is Brittany Boyce going to be?”
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