Family and friends of Rayel MacDonald and Alysha Mullett were in Williams Lake Supreme Court Monday morning to witness the start of the trial against Martin William Michael Gentles.
Tensions in the courtroom were high as the accused, now 30, formally entered pleas of not guilty to seven charges in relation to the incident April 22, 2012 in which TRU nursing students MacDonald and Mullett were struck by a vehicle at the bottom of Carson Drive at about 2:15 a.m.
MacDonald died as a result of her injuries while Mullett suffered serious bodily harm.
The young women, both 20 at the time, had just left the annual Indoor Rodeo Barn Dance and were with a large group of friends when they were hit.
Dressed in black pants and a striped dress shirt and tie Monday, Gentles sat quietly in the courtroom just a few blocks away from where the tragedy occurred, as Crown counsel Julie Dufour outlined the case against him.
During her opening statement, Dufour told the court Gentles agreed to some statement of facts, including that he was driving the vehicle the night in question.
Crown is alleging Gentles was impaired by alcohol and driving down Carson Drive when he hit the pedestrians. Gentles was pulled over a short while later by then Staff Sgt. Ken Brissard who was patrolling and noticed the vehicle “fish-tailing” and driving too fast for the area before he actually knew of the unfolding emergency on Carson Drive.
Gentles is charged with operating a motor vehicle in a dangerous manner causing the death of MacDonald and bodily harm of Mullett, operating of a motor vehicle while impaired causing death and bodily harm, impaired driving causing death and bodily harm and failing to stay at the scene of an accident.
Several police and civilian witnesses, many of whom were with the women following the barn dance, are expected to take the stand over the next three weeks before Justice John D. Truscott.
Defence lawyer Ken Walker is representing Gentles.