Last Updated: Thursday 2 September 1999  Local News

Victim's father lashes ruling

Jack Keating, Staff Reporter The Province


An American woman freed on a charge of dangerous driving causing death got away with "legalized murder" in the deaths of two teenage girls at the Peace Arch border crossing. 

That was the angry reaction from the father of one of the girls after B.C. Supreme Court Justice Thimersingh M. Singh ruled yesterday that Julia Campagna, 28, of Kirkland, Wash., was not criminally responsible when she drove her 1997 Pontiac Grand Prix at high speed into the rear of a 1991 Honda Accord in which the girls were waiting to cross the border into Canada on May 30, 1998.

The horrific crash set off a fiery explosion that instantly killed Kimberly Brooks, 18, of Port Coquitlam and Monique Ishikawa, 19, of North Vancouver, and sent Canada Customs inspectors scrambling out of their booths about 25 metres away.

David Clark, The Province/ Cat Simril-Ishikawa, wearing T-shirt bearing his daughter's picture, talks to media after ruling.

Monique Ishikawa

Kimberly Brooks

Julia Campagna

"It's the legalization of murder, said Cat Simril-Ishikawa, whose daughter died in the fiery crash. "I think it's madness." 

In the time leading up to the crash, Campagna was taking Xenedrine, an over-the-counter diet and weight-loss drug that contains a "performance-enhancing" stimulant called ephedrine. She was trying to lose weight in preparation for running the Boston Marathon. 

The judge ruled, based on the evidence of forensic psychiatrists, that the drug induced a "psychotic mental disorder" which made Campagna not responsible for her actions the night of the crash. 

As she drove her car at a minimum speed of 85 km/h in a zone with posted speed limit of 30 km/h, Campagna thought that she was flying an airplane, and that messages on the radio told her to speed up because she was on the way to meet hockey star Joe Nieuwendyk, with whom she thought she was having a baby. She has never met Nieuwendyk, a star player with the Dallas Stars of the NHL. 

After a psychological assessment, Campagna was declared fit to stand trial. As the trial began, Crown counsel Robert Bonner agreed with defence counsel that Campagna was not criminally responsible. 

That left it up to to Singh to rule on the question, and caused Simril-Ishikawa to complain: "There was no prosecution." 

"We have two dead people here and their killer walks out of the courtroom and is going back to Seattle and spend the rest of her life having a good time," said Simril-Ishikawa. "She'll be running marathons, paying taxes and being a good citizen. She's free and my daughter is dead." 

The judge, who said he was aware of "potential fake pleas," said he was cautious in reaching his conclusion, which he noted will be controversial and painful to the family and friends of the victims. 

An attractive, physically fit woman dressed fashionably in a black pant suit, Campagna showed no emotion at the verdict. 

Free on bail since July 6, 1998, she will be before Singh today for a disposition hearing to determine how much supervision, if any, is required.