Ottawa Citizen

Thursday December 02, 1999

Mother jailed for taking child on perilous ride

Drunken woman didn't notice daughter, 4, clinging to back of car

Kelly Egan
The Ottawa Citizen

John Major, The Ottawa Citizen / Angie Lanceleve leaves the court in Kemptville, escorted by OPP officers, after being sentenced to nine months in jail for impaired driving, dangerous driving and child abandonment.

She lived in a trailer on the edge of Kemptville, a single mother and a lousy housekeeper.

On the afternoon of Dec. 4, 1998, while she waited for her three children to return from school, Angie Lanceleve, then 27, proceeded to get recklessly drunk on vodka martinis.

That was the least of it. With more than twice the legal limit of alcohol in her system, she got behind the wheel of her Hyundai hatchback and drove a few hundred metres to the school bus stop.

It was 4 p.m. and the kids were arriving. Family life, as they knew it, was about to end. What Ms. Lanceleve proceeded to do would cause her to lose custody of her children and, as of yesterday, earn her nine months in jail.

Her two boys, aged five and seven, began to walk back to the trailer. But little Brittany, the pretty four-year-old, jumped on the back bumper, clutching the broken rear wiper.

Ignoring all three children, Ms. Lanceleve tore onto the highway, apparently on her way to the store to get cigarettes. Not knowing about her rear passenger, she drove wildly down County Road 44, nearly hitting oncoming traffic.

When she was finally stopped -- after a heroic effort by a pursuing motorist -- Brittany was hysterical. She was shivering and crying, her hair tangled in the wiper, tears frozen on her face. Though it was December, she was wearing just a T-shirt.

Her actions shocked the region. Justice Peter Griffiths wasn't very impressed, either.

"There are no assets in our community more precious than our children or more deserving of our protection," Judge Griffiths said yesterday as he sentenced Ms. Lanceleve to nine months in jail and placed her on probation for three years.

"She was so negligent in her supervision of the child that she didn't even know where the child was when she took off," Judge Griffiths said grimly.

Ms. Lanceleve, who has lost custody of her three children, was convicted of dangerous driving (six months), impaired driving (30 days concurrent) and child abandonment (three more months).

Dressed in a floral skirt, a blue top and blue boots, Ms. Lanceleve wept openly as her misdeeds were put on the public record in a cramped Kemptville courtroom.

Defence lawyer Richard Knott had argued for a conditional sentence, in which Ms. Lanceleve would receive no jail time but undergo close supervision in the community.

The judge disagreed, deciding a strong message of deterrence was needed.

"Her actions endangered not only her own child, but all the children at the bus stop, the people on the highway, and the motorist who made a heroic effort to stop her."

Judge Griffiths was also troubled by the pre-sentence report, which documented how Ms. Lanceleve has refused to seek counselling for drug and alcohol abuse or take any parenting courses. Instead, she told those assembling the report that her family was fine, the children were happy, and she engaged in domestic pursuits such as making jam.

Crown attorney Alan Findlay painted a starkly different picture.

He told the court that investigators were told Ms. Lanceleve was using drugs on a regular basis and would leave her children with neighbours "for a couple of hours," only to be absent for two days.

Over the years, at least two Children's Aid societies had been alerted.

"In my respectful submission, she cares more about partying than she does about her own children," said Mr. Findlay.

Mr. Findlay said Ms. Lanceleve did not have a valid driver's licence at the time, made a sexual approach to the breathalyser technician and encouraged her neighbours to lie to investigators.

Further, a psychologist who interviewed all family members found Ms. Lanceleve denied having even the most minor character fault and had no real insight into the seriousness of the offence.

"Your honour," pleaded Mr. Findlay, "you have to denounce her conduct. You have to get her attention."

Defence lawyer Knott said his client is a first-time offender, has not been in trouble with alcohol or drugs during the past year and has lost custody of her children.

"This case has been very troubling for my client and for me," said Mr. Knott. "When you meet and see what a pretty young child Brittany is, you are struck by how horrible this incident could have been."

She had permitted the two boys to ride on the back bumper "on a couple of occasions" as she drove slowly back from the bus stop -- but never Brittany, Mr. Knott said.

He told the court Ms. Lanceleve would like her children back, but realizes that may never happen. "My client is faced with the knowledge that as long as the children are doing well with their father, they will stay with him."

He also told the judge he failed to see how a prison term was going to make his client a better parent.

Before passing sentence, the judge asked Ms. Lanceleve, who was first married at 17 but had her children with a second husband, if she had anything to say. "It's unfortunate this had to occur. I plan to ensure it doesn't happen again," she answered.

Emerging from court a few minutes later, Mr. Knott said it was too early to say whether an appeal would be attempted. "We're pretty devastated by the sentence."

Copyright 1999 Ottawa Citizen