The family of a 23-year-old woman who was killed over two years ago broke down in tears as Justice Donald J. Halikowski held off sentencing until January 31.
Serena Shaw was killed on Sylvan Glen Road in the Municipality of Port Hope on August 4, 2021.
Since then the family has been put through hell waiting for justice to be served.
Court dates put over and the agony of a trial.
But the family will have to wait until January 31 until the sentence is handing down to 39-year-old Jason Bickle.
Serena was a passenger in 1971 pickup truck driven by Bickle from the Municipality of Port Hope.
The pickup was travelling northbound on Sylvan Glen Road when the driver lost control and the vehicle went heavily into the ditch. Neither Bickle or Serena were wearing a seatbelt.
Serena was killed as a result of the collision.
Bickle was charged and found guilty of dangerous driving causing death and impaired operation causing death.
Bickle was also found guilty of dangerous operation where Shaw was once again a passenger just days before the fatal collision.
There were nine victim impact statements read before the court.
Some family members were able to read their statements, while Crown Prosecutor David Parke read others.
One common factor in all the statements about Serena – she was special very much loved by her family and friends.
Describing Serena as a, “radiated beauty, compassion, thoughtfulness, responsibility, independence, breath of fresh air, a rainbow on a rainy day, contagious smile with infectious laugh, Serena was the girl anyone could go too, a firecracker, so full of life, heart of gold, went above and beyond, a special girl, a go-to person, kind hearted, glowing with life, Serena was the holidays were just some of the things said in the statements.
Serena’s aunt said, “there will always be that empty seat.”
Serena’s parents, Dawn and Steve ended their statement by saying, We never gave life after death a second thought. Now hoping more than anything that there is something more. There has to be something more. This can’t be the end of Serena’s story.”
And in the same statements, family and friends spoke disdain for Bickle.
“Jason Bickle has taken a life,” said Serena’s best friends mother and has inflicted a “lifetime of hurt” asking Halikowski for the maximum sentence.
“How do you sleep at night,” Serena’s Aunt asked Bickle.
Saying it was “100% preventable,” Serena’s best friend.
“I haven’t just lost my best friend – I lost myself.”
In the submissions Parke said the theme that develops with impaired driving is they are often committed by individuals that may otherwise have impeccable character.
“Often times without a criminal record.”
“Nobody, sober or impaired gets behind the wheel intending to inflict grievous bodily harm or death.”
Parke said impaired drivers often think they pose no risk to anyone.
“Law enforcement can only hope to catch a tiny fraction of the drivers who take that risk.”
“The goal is the sentence you (Justice Halikowski) impose today is of such a standard that an individual, drunk at a barbeque, have a little to much and believes themselves to not be that impaired, that they think about it a little bit more because they hear about this sentence. And they make the decision not to drink and drive.”
“It is of hope that on top of that the fear a exemplary sentence will be sufficient to get them to think DD (designated driver) for you, take a cab.”
Parke then said the “pillar of the community” is not what he was saying with Bickle.
Bickle was convicted of dangerous driving prior to the offence before the court that took Serena’s life.
“He is not a solid pillar of the community.”
Parke said what the court is sentencing Bickle for is not just impaired driving.
Parke brought up the case involved Marco Muzzo who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for killing a four people of a family when he drove through a stop sign impaired in 2015.
“The extent of Mr. Muzzo’s bad driving was blowing a stop sign. That’s not our case here.”
Bickle chose to drive the way he did.
“He (Bickle) knew of the potential risks of his conduct as he slammed on the gas and started going up that country road. He made decisions that made this no where near an accident and are deserving of a significant penitentiary sentence.”
“Mr. Bickle was intentionally accelerating, spinning his tires and burning them out on the road.”
“It’s aggressive, intentional, dangerous, wreck less driving.”
Parke brought up words that were said by the Judge in sentencing Muzzo to 10-years in jail.
“For as long as Mr. Muzzo has been alive, courts have warned about the consequences of impaired driving – yet the message escaped him. It is important that it does not escape others.”
Parke brought up the impact drinking and driving causing death has in a community.
“Your Honour has the experience better than anyone in this room the need for ever increasing sentences in this field. And particularly when a death occurs, the need to assure the sentence imposed defers and denounces the conduct.”
Parke asked for a eight-year prison sentence with a 10-year driving prohibition.
Before Bickle’s attorney, Lilit Izakelian began her submissions, Justice Halikowski said that he only new about Bickle’s Highway Traffic Act record, just before court on Wednesday morning.
Justice Halikowski also stated that he read the pre-sentence report and stated, “if you read that report and didn’t know about this case, you’d say this is one of the finest individuals in the Province of Ontario.”
Izakelian mentioned that there was a booklet containing 50-character references for Bickle.
“You’re going to tell me he’s a fine individual?,” said Justice Halikowski.
“That would be correct,” said Izakelian,
There were nine offences for Bickle under the Highway Traffic Act starting in 1999 regarding speeding. Some are for minor speeding violations while others were 30-49 kph over the speed limit.
“He’s got fail to have insurance two or three times.”
“He (Bickle) didn’t pick up a clue that this isn’t the way to behave,” said Justice Halikowski adding it was a “concern.”
Izakelian went through the character references stating Bickle was a “good soul, has a huge heart” and “would give you the shirt off his back.”
The references also stated Bickle was a “one-of-a-kind, outstanding citizen, extremely hard working and compassionate.
Izakelian asked the court to impose a three to four year sentence for Bickle.
Parke countered, notwithstanding 51 letters of reference, individuals in the community (Bickle) assisted, plowed their driveways, assisted with their farms, the fact remains that it’s a good and outstanding member of the community to whom this sentence today is intended to say, “doesn’t matter how good and outstanding a person you are – we need to send a message that you can’t drink and drive.”
Parke said the character references gave a “suggestion of remorse,” but added, “don’t forget when Mr. Bickle testified your Honours findings were that he was evasive and untruthful. So much so that you rejected his evidence.”
When Bickle was on the witness stand, Parke said he blamed the situation on Serena.
“The belies everyone’s character reference.”
Justice Halikowski said he wanted to provide a in-depth written decision but added before adjourning the sentencing for January 31, 2024 he said, “I can tell you at the end of the day justice comes from a far greater power than we have on this planet.”
Victim Impact Statement from Serena’s sister Kylie
Serena Elizabeth Jean Shaw
June 30th, 1998 – August 4th, 2021
The thing about grief is that it is the rudder and l am the boat. It is tucked beneath me.
Hidden from plain sight, but it is the force that dictates my every moment. It redirects me with efficacy, and surely does not require my permission to do so. It is no surprise that the corroded rudder remains concealed underwater while the glossy hull is on display.
Well, I feel the same. People may see a bright young woman, while my decaying spirit stays tucked away. Some days I wish people would look at me and instantly know the details of my story. That way I wouldn’t have to teeter between trauma and dumping and perpetually faking optimism. I find myself choosing isolation in an attempt to bypass the intersection.
Now I want to take everyone back on the night of August 4, 2021. The night my life changed forever.
That evening I received a phone call from Serena- which I had missed. Following that my mom got a call again from Serena. She was asking to come for dinner. That was the first family dinner we had had in months. And because of you the last.
Following that, I went to leave, but it was like a force held me back from going. We went outside and spoke about how proud she was for just graduating from the PSW program.
My sister put her all into that program. I was so proud of her. She was glowing with life.
She knew everything was finally falling into place. As we walked inside, I touched her hair and traced our matching tattoos. For a reason I will never understand, but always be grateful for. I turned to Serena and said, I love you in case I don’t see you.
Those words are the last words I ever spoke to my sister.
That night I was woken up by a knock on the door. I stayed where I was in the silence of my basement. The silence broke with a scream of pain. It was my mom yelling for my dad that Serena is dead. Then I heard a cry from my dad that that pled why, oh no oh no oh no. To this day, those words will randomly ring through my head. I will be driving my car. ‘ll be at work or even taking a walk and those words pierce my brain. I fall asleep, tossing and turning to the echo of these words.
I felt numb, refusing to talk to anyone. My ig sister was just taken from me, my role model, my best friend just ripped away for me hours after just seeing her.
Over the course of the first year of her passing most of it felt like a blur. I’m sure you hear that all the time, but it really was. I was the first person to go to her house after she passed. I went because I needed more than anything at that moment was to retrieve a pineapple that we had gotten together. That pineapple was involved in our lives for four years. Holiday after holiday. Nobody ever knew why, and we liked it that way.
When I got to her house, it was like l lost her all over again. There I was in her hoodie, moving between her couch, and her bed replaying all the memories we shared here. I was screaming at the world. Pleading “why”, ” why not me”.
All wrapped up in one of her many blankets, squeezing a hoodie that smelt like her still absolutely losing myself.
This moment l’ve kept to myself, until now.
The next big moment was planning her beautiful celebration of life.
I took that role nearly 100% by myself.
I needed it to be perfect for her.
I also felt like I needed to be strong for my family’s sake. To take stress off of my parents but that only added more for me. I wanted her celebration of life to capture as much as I could of Serena’s life.
I broke down one of my hardest while I was here, because somebody told me how beautiful a job I did.
I could see it in my parents eyes how badly that hurt them.
So from that point on, I promised myself something.
Which is something I sometimes regret, but fear will never learn to escape from, and that is to always protect my parents from my pain. To keep it behind closed doors I can’t add to the hurt that they feel already.
Behind those closed doors, I still feel the same way as the day I found out.
The hurt and pain is still igniting every day. When I think about my family and how different we all are.
There’s always an overwhelming feeling of anger and sadness around.
I fear that my house may never fully feel like a home again without her.
There are so many unresolved feelings for all of us.
I myself have many feelings that I have, and may never resolve or talk about, because they’re either too painful to talk about or sometimes I feel like I don’t deserve to heal and be happy.
Most of the reason being to protect my family from hurt that I have suppressed and nearly mastered at hiding.
I am the glue.
I am the soundboard.
I know I have to be strong and mentally present so that I can protect my parents and little sister from the hurt that slowly drowns me.
A psychological principle from Martin Seligman explains “learned helplessness” – we suffer the most when we believe we have no efficacy in our lives, but nothing can improve the outcome.
This is something that I have endlessly been experiencing since the day Serena was taken so suddenly from us.
My life since Serena has passed has mentally tore me in two.
I experience guilt for still being here.
Her life was on track and it was ripped from her. I now have to spend every holiday, every celebration and every birthday with out my sister by my side.
Serena put joy in every holiday.
Decorating every house that she went into or filling it with the sweet aroma of baked sweets.
Now the walls, no matter how decorated, always seem bare.
Missing the extra little Holiday Pop that Serena always brought.
Now every time I look at them, I am reminded that my piece of joy was ripped away from me.
Now that Serena is gone I spend my holidays, looking at an empty chair of their plate and unopened, holiday cracker. Holiday after holiday. This causes an overwhelming feeling of defeat and emptiness.
One of the worst parts is how uncomfortable some people feel when they know.
They don’t want to talk about it or they don’t know how to talk about it.
Sometimes I even feel like people believe if they don’t talk about it, then it will make it go away.
Feeling like I can’t or shouldn’t talk about my big sister is one of the hardest parts.
Both talking about memories I had with her as well as talking about how I am and how much I miss her.
I often feel like those conversations are off-limits. I feel forced to be silent when all I want to do is scream at you for taking my sister.
I often have waves of emotions take over me. These moments come at the most inappropriate and unwanted times. My car is where this happens most often. In the morning, while I watch the sunrise appear. When a certain song plays on the radio.
When I look next to me and see an empty seat. Which was where we once used to sing our hearts out. Smiling ear to ear next to each other.
This is one of the things that I miss the most. Her laugh was always so contagious. When have these feelings it is like I am being suffocated. I want to scream but only silence comes out. I want to cry but I fear that is going to take over me and I won’t be able to stop. In the past when had waves of emotion I knew she was the first person I would call. The first house that I would drive too if I needed an out. I don’t have my safe place or person anymore. I miss my sister. I miss making memories with her. Now all I am left with is the suffocation of loneliness.
This last two and a half years has been nothing short of heartbreak, loneliness and completely losing myself. Along with Serena, a piece of me has forever died too.
Friendships I feel, will forever be damaged, my home will never be full and the dinner table will always be one plate short. When the time comes, I don’t have an older sister to turn to when I walk down the aisle, or have my first child. A child who will be named in memory of my sister, a child who will never meet their aunt.
And in the end, there is nothing I can do except stand here and spill out my heart to the man that killed her. I know I cannot bring my family back together, but I do know we can get the justice Serena deserves. The justice we all deserve.
I love you forever Serena Elizabeth Jean Shaw
Victim Impact Statement
Hi I am Mandee , Dawns sister
I would like to thank you for the opportunity to share how the death of my niece Serena Shaw has affected my life. I will try my best to find the words to properly describe the pain I am feeling and tremendous loss of our sweet Serena . For over 2.5 years now, I have tried so hard to make sense of this situation, but I haven’t been able to do so. I never imagined that I would lose my niece to such senseless acts.
The lives of every family member and her closest friends have been forever affected by Serenas death. My sister Dawn and brother inlaw Steve have suffered the ultimate loss, the loss of a child. When I look into the eyes of my sister and brother inlaw a spark is missing. That spark has been replaced with painful sadness. None of us can understand why this has happened. Serena had her whole life ahead of her . She was bright, beautiful and talented in so many was. She touched the hearts of people with her love and generosity. She loved her family beyond words. With serenas death; there is now an empty space in our family, and in our hearts. Serena was taken way to soon from us so many people who loved and respected her.
Calling my sister and seeing her every single day to make sure she was going to be okaish , just trying to figure out everyday how can I help her, their was nothing I could do or say that could ever take that pain away. To hear that she just wanted to be with Serena so she wasn’t alone, but reminding her she still has two girls that need her, to let my sister fall asleep on my lap while rubbing her hair after a few days of no sleep, playing with her hair so she would stop rocking uncontrollably while replaying everything in our heads in the courtroom. Spending hours at a garden because it brought her closer to her. Spreading ashes across the world because Serena wanted to travel. This are things I do because I am a big sister and that what we do for our little sisters.
It also makes me think of Kylie and Emma , how that has now been taken away from them, yes they still have each other but Serena was the one they both looked up to, they don’t get to tell secrets, be there for each other when times are tough , Christmas baking, road trips on a whim, and just being the 3 Shaw girls.
There is now Steve the rock they one holding it all together and never thinking of himself , but I have also spent a lot of time worrying about him aswell even though hes the tough guy the strong one , I also see so much sadness in his eyes , someone could only be so strong for so long before they hit a breaking point themselves.
Serenas death will have a life long impact on my family. I feel that for justice to be served Mr.Bickle must be held accountable for what he has done.my family who has already lost so much , Serena was taken from us. And all we can do now is hope and pray for justice.
I have tried to help my family through this ordeal. It has been my way of not dealing with my own feelings about losing my niece. I know in my mind that I have to deal with my feelings but I do not know how to do that. I think of Serena ALL THE TIME and I want her back. Although I do know she is dead and that she can’t come back I just can’t accept that in my heart. I want Serena back I just cant tell my heart what my mind already knows. My mind knows that serena is gone but my heart just can’t accept that. The thought of never seeing her again on this earth is just to hard the deal with. But if we do open our eyes, we see her absolutely everywhere.