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Woman jailed 27 months for hit-and-run that injured Fort Macleod teens

A 26-year-old woman went to jail for 27 months Wednesday for running over four Fort Macleod teenagers, causing permanent brain damage in one.
Chaylee Bruised Head was sentenced in Lethbridge provincial court on two counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm and one charge of failing to remain at the scene of an accident.
Bruised Head, who also goes by the last name Eagle Plume, pleaded guilty in October but sentencing was postponed while Judge Gregory Maxwell considered case law and reviewed the facts of the case.
Bruised Head was in custody at Lethbridge Correctional Centre and appeared via closed circuit television, listening impassively to Judge Maxwell.
Three 14-year-old youths and one 13-year-old youth were walking on the shoulder of the road on 12th Street in Fort Macleod about 10:28 p.m. May 10.
“They were struck from behind by a vehicle,” Judge Maxwell said Wednesday as he read his decision.
Two of the young people were not injured but one girl bounced off the side of the vehicle, suffering a broken neck, fractured ribs and other injuries that required surgery and physiotherapy.
“There is a serious concern with respect to this young lady of long-term problems with her back,” Judge Maxwell said.
A boy bounced off the hood of the vehicle, smashing the windshield with his head.
He suffered a broken tibia, broken wrist, three broken ribs, broken clavicle and had glass in his eye. The boy was put on a ventilator while he underwent extensive surgery on his hands to repair tendons, bones were repaired and plates and screws inserted.
“He will suffer from a long-term if not permanent brain injury,” Judge Maxwell said.
Bruised Head did not stop to check on the condition of the teenagers, and the vehicle she was driving was later found abandoned in a field south of Fort Macleod. There was blood and hair in the broken windshield.
“The four children were left to fend for themselves,” Judge Maxwell said.
Bruised Head only had a learner’s licence, and the vehicle was not insured.
Judge Maxwell said Bruised Head tried to deceive police, twice implicating innocent third parties.
Bruised Head eventually admitted guilt, telling police she was extremely drunk and did not remember much from that night.
“While highly intoxicated, she had made a decision to drive to get more alcohol,” Judge Maxwell said.
Crown prosecutor Vaughan Hartigan was seeking two-year jail terms on each of the dangerous driving charges, and one year on the charge of failing to remain at the scene of an accident.
“The Crown points out that this offence is indeed reprehensible to the public,” Judge Maxwell said. “Four children were hit and fleeing the scene is reprehensible. Putting her own perceived best interests above severely injured children.”
“The addition of her attempts to avoid responsibility and ultimately implicating innocent third parties makes the matter more serious. This, I’m urged to consider, was not a momentary lapse of judgement but rather a protracted effort at deception and a failure to accept responsibility for the accident over a period of several days.”
The Crown wanted the sentences to be served consecutively to one another, for a total of five years.
Defence lawyer Wade Hlady had argued for a sentence of one year to 18 months.
Both lawyers provided case law to support their sentencing submissions.
Judge Maxwell cited as mitigating factors in sentencing the guilty plea, and that Bruised Head expressed remorse and wrote letters of apology.
Judge Maxwell said he also took into consideration that Bruised Head is young, aboriginal and has experienced a lifetime of neglect, abuse, domestic violence and substance abuse.
Judge Maxwell weighed the mitigating factors against the facts of the case as well as the impact of the incident on the children and their families.
“Their lives have been irrevocably altered and their families have been impacted,” Judge Maxwell said.
Judge Maxwell told court sentencing for similar cases has ranged from jail sentences of 12 to 24 months.
Judge Maxwell sentenced Bruised Head to 18 months in jail with a three-year driving prohibition on each of the charges of dangerous driving causing bodily harm, to be served concurrently. She must also provide a DNA sample that will be kept on a national databank.
Judge Maxwell also sentenced Bruised Head to nine months in jail on the charge of failing to remain at the scene of an accident, to be served consecutively to the other sentences.
Bruised Head will be on probation for 12 months once she gets out of jail, with conditions that she take counselling for grief, substance abuse and life skills, abstain from alcohol and drugs and have no contact with the victims.
Bruised Head was given 191 days credit for time she had already spent in custody.
“This incident that we’re dealing with can only be described as a true tragedy,” Judge Maxwell said. “Four young children were doing absolutely nothing wrong and two were seriously injured and will pay the price of Miss Bruised Head’s decision for the rest of their lives.”