Trial over death of Morrisburg lawyer begins

The United Counties building and Provincial Offences Act courthouse at 22 Pitt Street in Cornwall. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL — A week-long trial has begun for the woman accused of causing a 2015 crash that killed a noted Morrisburg lawyer.

Catriona Kirkwood, 42, of North Dundas has pled not guilty to a single count of careless driving under the Highway Traffic Act. Injuries sustained in a head-on crash on County Road 7, south of Chesterville, on the morning of Feb. 24, 2015, led to the death of Peter Remillard.

The first witness on the stand for the prosecution was the investigating officer — former O.P.P Const. Paul Lalande. He now works for the Ottawa Police Service.

Lalande testified he arrived on the scene of the curvy road around 9:05 a.m. to find a silver BMW SUV and a blue Dodge Journey, both with extensive front end damage.

Firefighters and paramedics were already working on the victims, which he described as a “chaotic scene…there were people everywhere.”

Lalande said both drivers were conscious, talking and he had “no concerns about the wellbeing of the drivers.”

He would later learn Remillard would present with no vital signs (VSA) at the Winchester hospital and would be pronounced dead.

During his investigation, Lalande interviewed witnesses where he learned Kirkwood had dropped off her child at daycare in Chesterville around 8:30-8:40 a.m.

Lalande’s testimony also focused on the evidence of a cell phone in Kirkwood’s vehicle, where it was found and whether the O.P.P. would press a criminal charge of dangerous driving.

A forensic investigation would later show there were no text messages or calls on Kirkwood’s phone prior to the crash. “It came back negative,” he testified.

But a preliminary investigation did show Kirkwood’s Dodge Journey crossed the centerline, Lalande said.

The court has also heard testimony from two farmers first to arrive on scene, as well as the law clerk and paralegal at Remillard’s Morrisburg office.

Farming brothers Jack and Mike Hoogeveen testified they came on the crash while going for coffee in Chesterville. Jack tended mostly to Remillard and his vehicle while Mike focused on Kirkwood and her van.

Jack testified Remillard had asked a number of times about “How is the person in the other vehicle?” He said the lawyer would complain of pain in his chest.

Mike said Catriona Kirkwood was mostly disoriented and was initially not responsive to his questions. “She moaned a little bit,” he said. She “just commented about looking for her phone,” he told court.

Remillard had a satellite office in Chesterville, where he was travelling to that fateful morning.

In the afternoon, court heard testimony from SD&G O.P.P. Sgt. Greg Smith, Lalande’s supervisor at the time. He said Remillard’s injuries were multiple fractures, including his femur, ribs and arm, plus he was suffering from a lung problem — an update he got from paramedics before Remillard was taken to hospital.

Smith said he didn’t recall Remillard having a cell phone among his belongings during the initial stages of the investigation.

The court gallery was partially full Monday with around 9-10 family and supporters of Kirkwood and 5-6 family and supporters of the Remillard family.

The Crown is expected to call expert witnesses on Tuesday and Wednesday before the defence is scheduled to call witnesses on Thursday. Final arguments are scheduled for Friday.