He may never break the law again, but Cody Wengenmayr must go to jail for killing a child with his car, a judge ruled Friday.
The young father was sentenced to 18 months in jail and two years' probation for impaired driving causing the death of a six-year-old boy and serious injuries to his mother in Kelowna. A dozen friends and relatives, several of them in tears, watched him go with a sheriff to the courthouse cells.
Justice Gregory Bowden admitted imprisonment won't enhance Wengenmayr's rehabilitation, but said young people like him must understand that when death results from drinking and driving, a jail sentence will follow.
"The sentence must also promote a sense of responsibility on the part of Mr. Wengenmayr, which according to the probation report appears to be somewhat lacking," the judge said.
Iris Alphonse was jaywalking across six lanes as she pulled her son Trey across Highway 97 at night in front of Orchard Park mall on Aug. 30, 2010. She hesitated on the median and ran across the westbound lanes holding Trey's hand as he dragged his toy scooter.
Wengenmayr, then 20, failed to brake for the pair as he drove west with a friend in the curb lane. Other motorists slowed down, but Wengenmayr kept driving at the same speed. His car clipped Alphonse, breaking her leg, and launched Trey 20 metres. He died later in hospital.
Wengenmayr had been drinking with friends. Based on his breathalyzer readings, a forensic expert estimated his blood-alcohol level was at least .11.
He was traumatized by the tragedy but resisted taking responsibility for it, a probation officer wrote in the report.
"He did not think he was intoxicated and believed he was capable of driving. He appeared to view the offence as an accident where responsibility should be shared between him and the victims, and said Ms. Alphonse could have made a better choice than crossing the highway where there was no crosswalk," said the judge.
Wengenmayr apologized in court two weeks ago and said he hasn't driven since the collision. He has no previous criminal record and wasn't speeding or driving erratically.
Still, an officer pulled him over 40 days before the collision. Wengenmayr was driving at about 120 km/h in a 50 zone as his vehicle dragged a tree branch. The officer asked for a breath sample, and his blood-alcohol level was just under the legal limit. He was suspended from driving for 24 hours and his car was impounded.
"It should have been a significant wake-up call to Mr. Wengenmayr regarding drinking and driving," the judge said.
Iris Alphonse shared part of the blame. Crossing the highway at an unmarked location with her young child contributed to some extent to the boy's death, said Bowden.
The probation officer was unable to reach Alphonse. No one from her family attended the trial, and there was no victim impact statement. A friend said Alphonse is still devastated by the tragedy.
Wengenmayr was brought up in a normal home, court heard. At 17, he and his girlfriend became parents of a girl. He dropped out of school in Grade 10 to work full time as a drywaller to support her. She now lives with her mother.
As part of his probation, Wengenmayr may speak to a class of high-school students and other groups about drinking and driving, the judge said. He's barred from driving for two years.