A 23-year-old repeat drunk driver who killed a Toronto cyclist and fled police at 200 km-h was sent to jail Wednesday.
Darya Selinevich, a former highly regarded law clerk and aspiring paralegal, appeared stoic as a judge sentenced her to seven years, reduced to four and a half years in acknowledgment of time already spent in jail since the June 11, 2015 crash that killed Zhi Yong Kang, the 44-year-old father of a 15-year-old boy.
Just one month before drinking heavily and slamming a BMW into Kang at almost double the speed limit, as he pedaled along Finch Ave. W., Selinevich had received a one-year-driving ban for speeding with double the legal limit of alcohol in her system — intoxication so severe she passed out at a police station.
After leaving Kang dying on the ground shortly after midnight, Selinevich raced through the residential neighbourhood, swerved around a police car and ran a red light before pulling into a strip mall and fleeing from the car which kept moving with locked doors.
At the time of her arrest, the Richmond Hill woman’s social media accounts glorified drinking and driving with photos of a wine bottle in a car, a speedometer at 202.5 km-h and a R.I.D.E. poster with her added joke that ride-home options, in addition to a bus, cab, police car or ambulance, were “option 5, my car.”
Yulian Liao, Kang’s ex-wife and the mom of their son, sobbed quietly as Justice Leslie Pringle described the crash in grisly detail before sentencing Selinevich for her admitted crimes of impaired driving causing death, failing to stop at the scene and for police, refusing to provide a breath sample and driving while disqualified.
The jail term came as pedestrians and cyclists are dying on Toronto streets at an alarming rate, and safety advocates demand legal reforms in hopes of saving lives and reflecting the toll drivers can take.
In many cases drivers who are at fault when they kill someone, but not drunk and do not flee, receive a fine of $1,000 or less under provincial traffic laws rather than face Criminal Code sanctions like Selinevich.
Det.-Const. Arthur Lane of Toronto police traffic services said outside court the Kang family remains “devastated” but he is satisfied with the jail term.
“In previous years we’ve had low sentences and so I’m glad to see that the sentences now are starting to move up in duration,” Lane said. “Society’s looking at these cases in a more serious light and that’s going to be helpful.
“The public should know that this kind of activity is absolutely abhorrent . . .”
Court heard Kang was exceptionally smart, graduated from “the Harvard of China” before moving to Canada, had a “maverick” personality and played sports and cycled with his beloved son.
Dong Kang said in a victim impact statement he was “deeply hurt” by his younger brother’s violent death and has struggled with depression and other health problems since the crash shortly after their father’s death.
Still, in her statement, Kang’s ex-wife said the family hopes the young woman one day achieves her dream of becoming a paralegal and has the same strong family supports as the cyclist she killed.
“Above all, we hope she has more patience in whatever she might do in the future,” Liao wrote. “We would like her to know we are immensely comforted by our family and friends surrounding us.”
Court heard Selinevich, originally from Russia, dropped York University law and society studies after a co-op placement led to a job as a law clerk/legal assistant. In a letter to court a former employer described her as intelligent and trustworthy.
But she ran with “high risk” friends and binge drank, especially after the deaths of four friends within two years, court heard. She is now a model prisoner, studying life skills, substance abuse, international business and, by correspondence, “dozens of bible studies” with an average of 95.9 per cent.
Selinevich did not address the court, saying “Yes” quietly when the judge asked if she understood her sentence.
“You are clearly someone who is intelligent, you are clearly someone who has the potential to learn from the horrendous crimes that have been committed in this case,” the judge said. “Good luck.”