ABBOTSFORD, B.C. — A drunk driver who killed RCMP Const. Sarah Beckett in a crash has been granted limited day parole to attend alcohol abuse treatment, but a parole board member cautioned that the man still struggles with honesty.
Kenneth Fenton was handed a four-year prison sentence in July 2017 and he told a Parole Board of Canada panel on Monday that driving drunk was the "most devastating choice" he had ever made.
"I have caused more pain than I can imagine with my selfish and arrogant behaviour," he said. "It does not seem fair that I am here while an innocent mother cannot go home to her children."
The two-member panel decided to allow him to go to a treatment centre to complete a 70-day program. But the members turned down his request to move to a halfway house after treatment, instead requiring him to return to prison before they decide next steps.
Beckett, a 32-year-old mother of two boys, had recently returned from maternity leave when she was killed in the Victoria suburb of Langford in April 2016.
A trial heard that Fenton, 29 at the time, was speeding away from another police cruiser that had just turned on its lights to pull him over. His pickup truck was travelling up to 90 kilometres an hour when it rammed Beckett's cruiser at an intersection, the court heard.
The parole board heard that he had alcohol, cocaine and marijuana in his system at the time of the crash. Fenton said he was grieving the death of a childhood friend who had committed suicide.
In May 2016, Fenton was involved in another drunken crash in which he and a female passenger were injured. He received an 18-month sentence last July to be served after his four-year sentence.
Dawson questioned why the "terrible" crash that killed Beckett was not "enough of a wake-up call" for him to stop drinking.
Fenton replied that he went "off the deep end" after the collision that killed the young mother and he started getting drunk every day.
"I just could not stop drinking. It was the only way I could get up in the morning," he said.
Dawson said Fenton still struggles with being forthright. She noted that at the start of the hearing he said he was living with the mother of his child at the time of the fatal crash, but after being questioned, he admitted the two lived in separate homes.
"You have some work to do when it comes to telling the truth, being transparent and honest," she said.
She also said she was concerned that he had an alcohol problem for 10 years before he recognized it. Fenton said he didn't realize he was an alcoholic until the third session of a faith-based recovery program in prison.
The mother of his child repeatedly urged him to seek treatment, but he was in denial and hiding his drinking, Fenton said.
He also admitted lying to a psychiatrist who assessed him after the first crash, saying that he "told her what she wanted to hear" when he said he was avoiding the impulse to drink alcohol by going on long walks.
"I always thought a man should hide his emotions and not show any weakness."
Board member Kevin D'Souza also questioned why Fenton repeatedly called the crash an "accident," implying no one was at fault.
Fenton replied that he didn't purposely crash into Beckett's cruiser.
"It was my fault. If I wasn't driving drunk that night, she would still be here," he said.
He said he's completed a recovery program in prison and is taking the course a second time. He also completed a non-violent communication course to deal with anger issues he experienced in his relationship with his child's mother, the board heard.
His parole officer said he was recommending day parole because there were no remaining substance abuse programs for Fenton to take in prison.
Fenton will not be allowed overnight leave while in treatment. He must abide by conditions including not using alcohol or drugs, not operating a motor vehicle, not contacting Beckett's family and not visiting Vancouver Island without permission.
He also must notify staff of any friendships or romantic relationships with women, given his frequent arguments in a previous relationship, which he acknowledged triggered anxiety that led him to drink.
Fenton said he had been offered booze and drugs by fellow inmates but he had always politely declined. He promised he would continue to refuse any offers in the treatment centre and would not lie about it.
"I figure that honesty is the best way through to my rehabilitation," he said. "If I lie about it, I'm just lying to myself. I don't want to live that path anymore."
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Laura Kane, The Canadian Press
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said Fenton was sentenced to five years and six months in the crash that killed Beckett, and that the 18-month sentence he received for the second crash was to be served at the same time.