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Tyler Besterd sentenced to 5 and a half years following Cindy Devine death

Cindy Devine of St. Thomas was pronounced dead at the scene following a crash just south of London, Ont., in October 2020. Supplied

Tyler Besterd has been sentenced to five and a half years in prison after he pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing death in relation to the 2020 fatal crash that killed Cindy Devine.

The sentence was handed down by Justice Glen Donald in a London courthouse on Monday.

The judge also ordered the 24-year-old St. Thomas man to face a nine-year driving prohibition once his sentence is served.

Read more: St. Marys fire officials to mark anniversary of Cindy Devine’s death with extinguisher giveaway

The sentence stems from a two-vehicle crash late in the afternoon of Oct. 2, 2020.

Besterd, then 23 years old, was sent to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Devine was pronounced dead at the scene. The 35-year-old St. Thomas woman leaves behind her husband Richard, children Dakota and Page, and stepchildren Aries and Brook.

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In December 2021, Besterd pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing death before defence lawyer Jeff Conway and Crown attorney George Christakos jointly submitted a prison sentence of five and a half years.

In delivering his decision, which agreed with the lawyers’ joint submission, Donald cited Besterd’s blood alcohol concentration, adding that Besterd’s ability to drive was so impaired “that he crossed over the line into the oncoming lane of traffic.”

Read more: ‘Extinguishers for Cindy’ aims to gather lessons from recent tragedy south of London, Ont.

“His decision to drive was made at a time of day, dinner time, when one would reasonably expect a generous amount of traffic occupying the roadways,” Donald said.

“The manner in which Ms. Devine died seems, to me, to be an aggravating circumstance that needs to be considered as well.”

Earlier in his decision, Donald cited the victim impact statement of the man who came upon the crash scene and offered help when describing Devine’s death as “neither quick nor painless.”

“She died trapped in her vehicle, which was ultimately engulfed in the flame created by the impact of the collision,” Donald said.

The judge described Besterd as a “youthful first offender” when laying out mitigating factors such as his guilty plea serving as a “clear expression of remorse and at the same time, an acceptance of responsibility for Ms. Devine’s death.”

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“The evidentiary record before me also makes it clear that his rehabilitative prospects are high, given the strong support that he has in the community,” Donald added.

Read more: ‘She never gets to watch her kids grow up’ — Family speaks out after fatal crash

Donald described the victim impact statements provided earlier in the case as “heart-wrenching and powerful,” adding that they helped him begin to understand the magnitude of the loss that resulted from Devine’s death.

“Parents lost their child, children lost their loving mother, a spouse lost the love of his life, a sister lost a sibling … the community lost one of its members, all as a result of Mr. Besterd’s choices,” Donald said.

“The number of days, months and years that Mr. Besterd will serve in a penitentiary is not a reflection of the value of Ms. Devine’s life.”

Speaking to Global News after the sentencing, Devine’s sister Christine Rozon says the day, which marks the end of court proceedings surrounding her sister’s death, has been filled with mixed emotions.

“It’s been a long time coming, we’re ready to kind of move on a little bit and I kind of equate it to having a Band-Aid that keeps getting ripped off. There’s a little bit of relief that goes with this,” Rozon said.

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“I talked to my parents and I talked to Richard, my brother-in-law. I think, to be honest, a lot of us today we’re just trying to keep as busy as possible to kind of get our mind off of it.”

While she appreciates Besterd being given a nine-year driven suspension, up from the five to seven years her family was pushing for, Rozon says the sentence should’ve been more harsh.

“Losing your license for nine years doesn’t really equal what happened,” Rozon said.

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