DELTA — The family of Alexa Middelaer hopes the former Ladysmith resident responsible for the four-year-old Delta girl’s death will choose to have a positive impact on the community now that she is out of jail.
Carol Ann Berner, who was sentenced to a 2 1/2-year prison term for killing Alexa and injuring her aunt in a horrifying drunk-driving incident in 2008, was given statutory release on Tuesday after serving two-thirds of her sentence.
“Today is not about Carol Berner — as a family, we have come to a full understanding of Carol — our hope is that she now chooses to contribute to her community and family in a productive manner, hopefully surrounding herself with a peer group that will help her grow in character and strength,” the Middelaer family said in a statement released by Alexa’s mother, Laurel Middelaer.
The family said it hopes Berner’s release can be an opportunity to examine the criminal-justice system’s handling of impaired-driving cases.
The family noted a 50 per cent reduction in impaired driving-related deaths since tougher legislation that imposed immediate penalties and roadside suspensions on impaired drivers — dubbed Alexa’s law — took effect in September 2010. But those criminally charged for impaired driving causing injuries or death still get off too easy, it said.
According to parole documents, Berner, 62, is believed to be at a low risk to reoffend.
The risk factors that contributed to her offences included substance abuse, a lack of insight into her mental-health issues and their link to alcohol, her attitude of minimizing her decision to drink and then get behind the wheel, and relationship and family issues.
Berner completed relevant rehab programs while incarcerated. “However, it is unclear what gains you made in addressing your risk areas,” the parole board said.
Berner was released under several conditions, including abstaining from alcohol, avoiding drinking establishments and getting treatment for substance abuse. These conditions will be in force until Sept. 3, 2015, when her sentence expires.
Berner is also forbidden to have any contact with Alexa’s immediate family or her aunt, Daphne Johanson.
It is not known where Berner has chosen to live.
Berner was found guilty in 2010 of impaired driving causing death, impaired driving causing bodily harm, dangerous driving causing death and dangerous driving causing bodily harm after her Oldsmobile veered off a rural Delta road on May 17, 2008, and plowed into Alexa and Johanson, who were feeding a horse at the side of the road.
Berner appealed her conviction and sentence in the B.C. Court of Appeal and to the Supreme Court of Canada.
When her third appeal was dismissed by the B.C. Court of Appeal in March 2013, Berner, who had been out on bail for all but two weeks since the charges were laid, started serving her jail term.