A night of silence ends
By Lorraine Passchier
In the early morning hours of Nov. 8, 1987 a group of young people drove down the main street of Mount Currie after a night of partying. Music filled the cab, spirits were high - and then a female passenger released a chilling scream.
The sequence of events that followed unleashed seven years of torment and a series of troubling questions that not even a B.C. Supreme Court trial could answer. The nightmare began when a man, believed to be Stanley Peters, was hit by a vehicle and hurled 15 metres through the air.
Death came to Mount Currie that night. The defence lawyer for the driver of the truck told Justice E.R.A. Edwards that the silence that followed was a group decision.
"A large number of people were there immediately. He recalls people saying things like hide the body," Patrick Angly said Monday at a sentencing hearing in Vancouver for Robert Dennis Williams, 29.
Williams was found guilty of hit and run after a jury trial last month, while Lawrence Pascal, 29, was acquitted of being an accessory and obstructing justice. The men were charged about three years ago after Pemberton RCMP launched a full-scale investigation after receiving tip.
Edwards delivered judgment in a two-hour hearing and sentenced Williams to 18 months in prison and prohibited him from driving for three years in a strongly worded statement.
The defence said the accident was not reported due to the community's fear of the police and the violent clashes they have had with authorities as a result of their quest for self-government.
With the Peters family sitting in the court gallery, Crown counsel Ron Schmidt called it a worst case scenario and requested the stiffest possible sentence. Schmidt referred to the victim impact statement submitted by Peters' mother, Rose, and the family's painful country-wide search for their missing son and brother.
Schmidt told the court alcohol, speed and lack of attention were factors in the accident, adding there was no attempt to seek help afterwards. He outlined a bid to cover-up and said the subsequent silence has denied the victim and his family the right to a burial and the most important sacrament in native culture.
William's mother, Patricia, testified her son showed signs of severe depression following the accident and she acknowledged the family visited at least three lawyers seeking advice when police questioned Dennis about five months after the accident.
Schmidt asked if she had ever asked her son whether the person he struck was Stanley Peters, noting his disappearance had been widely covered in the local media. When she said no, Schmidt replied: "You didn't want to put your son in that position did you?"
Angly told the court his client had tried to help police locate the body and he would go to jail if it would appease everybody and end the conflict that has surrounded him since the saga began. He said Williams was obviously troubled by the accident and seemed to be seeking atonement.
Edwards said all evidence indicated the person struck and killed was Stanley Peters, adding the body was hidden and never found. He noted the extreme anxiety suffered by the Peters family and the importance of burial in native culture.
"The accused didn't fabricate, but he remained silent and threatened others," Edwards said shortly before Williams was led from the courtroom by sheriffs.
Stanley's father, Morris, said the sentence would serve as a deterrent to others. "It's something they shouldn't get away with," he said as he walked away from the court. He believes his son's remains have never been found because of ongoing threats within the Mount Currie community.
The Peters would like to see their son buried beside his brothers Luke and John near their home in Devine. The 37-year-old logger and father was last seen by his brother Gregory after a night partying in D'Arcy and the family still prays his remains will be found.
Pemberton RCMP Sgt. Bruce Waite said the Peters file remains open and the detachment was out probing sites as recently as this fall. He said police have been told the Mount Currie cemetery and a sand bar on the river feeding into Lillooet Lake are possible sites.
Waite said Williams will once again be interviewed in jail.
"It has been proven he has been killed, now we have to find the body for the sake of the family. We will continue until it is found," he said.