Accused tried to cover and repair car utilized in deadly hit and run of Windsor boy on Jefferson Blvd.
A sentencing hearing was held Thursday for Christopher Filiault, 46, who previously pleaded guilty to failing to remain at the scene of an accident and obstruction of justice.
It happened on Sunday Nov. 15, 2020 around 8:45 pm, according to details released in court by assistant Crown attorney Jennifer Holmes.
Court heard, Kuothhorko James, known to his family as “Kuzy” suffered from autism and was just seven years old when he was killed.
“Kuzy was in the basement playing games on his PS4. John (his brother) told him to go to the living room. No one in the house saw Kuzy leave.” Holmes read.
She told the court the boy had ran from the home in the past, but never towards the busy Jefferson Boulevard.
When the family went to search for the boy, they saw several cars stopped on Jefferson Boulevard near Haig Avenue.
“He (John) ran down the road and saw his brother laying on the road with someone doing CPR on him,” says Holmes.
That someone, court heard, was John Deleesnyder, who had been driving southbound on Jefferson moments before the boy was hit.
“He could see a young child running from the left side of Jefferson to the right side,” Holmes told the judge. “He (Deleesnyder) believes the child was trying to play chicken with the cars as he was running side to side.”
After swerving to avoid hitting the boy, Deleesnyder told the police he saw a vehicle strike the child, which sent his small body 15 feet into the air before hitting the ground.
Deleesnyder focused on doing CPR because the child wasn’t breathing, and other witnesses, including his passenger, Rachel Desjardins were on the phone with 9-1-1 dispatchers.
Another witness, Marcia Almonte, was driving northbound on Jefferson Blvd. that night.
She too saw the boy, but after pulling over to call police, she heard “tires screeching after the bang and a car took off so quickly,” according to Holmes.
The boy was taken to the hospital by paramedics, but could not survive his injuries.
Court heard, the pathologist found Kuothhorko James died from “cervical neck dislocation” but he also suffered other “significant” injuries including a depressed skull fracture, a bruised heart, a ruptured bowel and both of his femurs were broken.
Holmes says there was “significant media attention” over the course of a week to assist police in locating the vehicle and driver involved in the accident.
One of the tips they got was about a minivan, matching the description of a 2006 Dodge Caravan, parked in the driveway of a home on Chandler Avenue.
Court heard that home belongs to Dan Feely, who was hired by Filiault to fix the damaged hood of the minivan.
It’s not clear if Feely knew the minivan was the one police were looking for.
Police learned the vehicle was owned by Christopher Filiault, and they seized it.
When Filiault went to the Chandler Ave. home to get his vehicle, he was directed to Windsor police and the Major Crimes office.
Filiault and his girlfriend went to police headquarters to give statements.
Filiault told police he bought the vehicle six weeks prior and was having it fixed to give to his girlfriend.
He said he had heard about the accident that killed a young boy, but told police he was at a funeral all day Sunday, Nov. 15 in the city and another funeral in West Lorne on Nov. 16.
Filiault could not account for his actions or whereabouts after 5 pm on Nov. 15 – the evening of the accident.
Court heard Filiault removed the bug deflector and broken front passenger headlight from his minivan sometime between Nov. 15 and Nov. 16.
Surveillance video was obtained that shows Filiault purchasing a new headlight assembly from a local auto wrecker, and attaching it himself, in the yard of the business.
Through investigation, court heard Filiault went to his girlfriends’ place of business between eight and nine o’clock the night of the accident.
One of her coworkers told police Filiault “appeared distressed” and the couple got into an “intense argument”.
According to Holmes, the coworker told police Filiault stated to his girlfriend: “Don’t get mad, I don’t deserve this. You need to be there for me. I don’t need this right now.”
Court heard, the coworker asked the girlfriend what happened, and she admitted that Filiault had hit something.
On Nov. 17, Filiault was arrested and while in police custody he “readily admitted” to having struck a pedestrian.
Filiault pleaded guilty to two of three charges in Feb 2022.
He was also facing a charge of criminal negligence causing death, but it’s not clear what will happen with that part of the indictment.
In the courtroom for Thursdays’ hearing were three people in support of Filiault and three from the James family.
The eldest son, John Tongyiek, read the victim impact statements written by members of his family.
Father, James Riek told the court the accident brought a “dark cloud” into their family, their church and the community.
He described his son as a humble, lovely child who was always smiling.
“I would never have thought any of my children would die (before me),” he wrote to the court.
Riek says the family remains distressed about the accident, and they cannot travel along Jefferson Blvd., choosing rather to go around the block in order to get home.
James’ mother, Rebecca Yat wrote of the special relationship she had with Kuothhorko, not only because he was her youngest child, but also because he was diagnosed with autism.
“I still hear him in my mind sometimes, saying ‘goodnight mom’ and it breaks my heart,” Yat wrote in her victim impact statement.
The victim’s other brother, James, compared Filiault’s actions as something he would expect in a third world country, “where life is not valued.”
He told the judge Filiault’s actions amounted to the “highest of wrongs.”
James’ sister also spoke about Filiault’s actions.
She wrote to the judge, “it’s as if he (Filiault) saw the life he took as meaningless.”
The family concluded their address to the court, by expressing frustration they were never told when Filiault got bail.
Thursday’s court hearing was the first time the family has seen what Christopher Filiault looks like.
Yet, outside of court, James Riek told CTV News he still has faith in the Canadian justice system.
“I hope the judge hear(s) our voice because we put our voices in there to show that we have a word to say about our son,” says Riek.
Filiault declined to comment outside of court.
The judge has now requested a pre-sentence report to be written for Filiault, which will take approximately six weeks to complete.
The sentencing hearing will continue May 17th, at which time Filiault will be given a chance to speak to the court.
James Riek (right) and Rebecca Yat (left), parents of Kuothhorko James attend a hearing at Ontario County in Windsor, Ont. on Thursday, March 24, 2022. (Michelle Maluske/CTV Windsor)