Family seeking closure and justice in alleged impaired driving death of southern Alberta woman
Betty Ment of Coalhurst, Alberta died Nov.25, 2019, when her Ford Escape was driven into at highway speed by a white VW Jetta while she was stopped at a stop sign. The driver of the Jetta, Wesley Phillips of Lethbridge, was taken to hospital, before being charged with numerous charges, including impaired driving causing death and dangerous operation of a vehicle causing death. Phillips failed to show up for a subsequent June court appearance and is at large.
LETHBRIDGE, ALTA. -- A man charged with causing a fatal collision west of Lethbridge last year remains at large, and the victim’s family is asking for public help to locate him.
37-year old Wesley Brian Phillips of Lethbridge was charged after a collision November 25, 2019 at the Coalhurst turnoff on Highway 3. According to RCMP his white VW Jetta was heading westbound when it collided at highway speed with a Ford Escape that was stopped at a stop sign on 51 Avenue.
The driver of the Escape, 66-year old Betty Ment of Coalhurst, died in the collision.
Phillips was taken to Chinook Regional Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
He was later charged with refusing to provide a blood sample, along with impaired driving causing death, dangerous operation of a vehicle causing death and failure to comply with a probation order.
On March 20, Phillips was released on bail, but a few hours later he was re-arrested after allegedly causing a disturbance at a liquor store, damaging the computer, knocking over alcohol displays and assaulting a customer.
Damage to the store was estimated at between $5,000 and $10,000.
Within hours of being taken into custody, Phillips was released by the bail office, and he failed to show up for his next court appearance in June.
According to Ment’s family the accused remains at large.
“At this point he is not coming forward to be accountable for anything that he has done,” said Ment’s daughter-in-law Caroline Ross.
She said the family believes someone, somewhere, must know where he is. “I’m just hoping the public will help bring him forward.”
Ross described Ment as a lovely, caring and bright woman, who was devoted to showing dogs, loved animals and enjoyed reading.
The woman’s surviving adult children, Robert, Suzanne and Travis released a statement:
“Betty was an amazing mother to all three of us. The anguish weighed heavy as Betty’s birthday came and went on September 1. We remembered her fondly and shared our grief together over the phone.”
Family members said they spoke with the Crown Prosecutor last week, and there had been no progress on the case.
“We are coming up to six months of freedom for Wesley Phillips, while we are locked in with our grieving process and find it difficult to continue to move forward.”
The Lethbridge and Area Chapter of MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, has provided support to the family.
Chapter President Anita Huchala said she can understand their frustration, “It makes it very difficult that they can't proceed, not only the grieving process, but the court case to get this resolved.”
The Lethbridge Police Service said Phillips is wanted on 15 outstanding warrants, including eight counts of failing to comply with a court order.
Anyone with information about Phillip’s whereabouts to contact the Lethbridge Police Service at 403-328-4444 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477. Anonymous tips can also be submitted online atwww.p3tips.com.
Ross said Phillip’s actions to date suggest he may be a high risk to reoffend. “We don't want to see another family go through this. It’s too painful to lose somebody that way.”