Friday, September 03, 1999

Medication blamed in car crash that killed two
Driver found not criminally responsible

Rod Nutt
The Vancouver Sun, with files from The Province

David Clark, the Province
Julia Campagna leaves New Westminster courthouse yesterday. The Washington state woman was found not criminally responsible in the deaths of two B.C. teens who died after she rammed their car at the Peace Arch border crossing. The accident took place on Canadian soil.

Monique Ishikawa

Kimberly Brooks

VANCOUVER - A Washington state woman has been found not criminally responsible for the deaths of two B.C. teenagers in a high-speed collision at the Peace Arch border crossing last year.

"I am aware the decision may be unwelcome and painful to family and friends of the victims," Justice Thimersingh Singh said in his ruling, which was handed down Wednesday.

Judge Singh said the evidence of the accused's mental disorder was "overwhelming."

Julia Campagna was charged with driving dangerously and causing the deaths of Kimberly Brooks, 18, and Monique Ishikawa, 19, after she rammed into the back of a car in which the two women were waiting to clear customs after a shopping trip to the United States.

The accident took place on Canadian soil.

"It's the legalization of murder," Monique's father, Cat Ishikawa, said of the verdict.

"It's total madness. It's a welcome mat for killers to come to Canada with no penalty."

A court hearing was held yesterday to determine what restrictions, if any, should be placed on 28-year-old Ms. Campagna. Judge Singh has several alternatives: he can grant an absolute discharge, a discharge with conditions attached, or he can order Ms. Campagna to be detained in custody in hospital.

Or he could refer the decision to a review board, a tribunal appointed by the government to handle cases when a defendant is found not criminally responsible.

Ms. Campagna had been taking Xenedrine, an over-the-counter hunger depressant available in the U.S., but discontinued the weight-loss drug two or three days before the accident, which occurred May 30, 1998.

Dr. Louise McLeod, who examined Ms. Campagna a few hours after the crash, said she could have been suffering withdrawal symptoms and was disassociated.

"Olympic athletes who take drugs are penalized," Mr. Ishikawa said.

"This marathon runner can take a drug and then go out and kill. If you're impaired and kill someone, you're prosecuted."

Ms. Campagna, who had run the Vancouver marathon, took Xenedrine to lose weight as she prepared to compete in the Boston marathon.

As she drove her car at a minimum speed of 85 km/h in a zone with posted speed limit of 30 km/h, Ms. Campagna later told authorities, she 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 Mr. Nieuwendyk, a star player with the Dallas Stars of the National Hockey League.

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

Fran Brooks, Kimberly's mother, declined comment.

Ms. Campagna spent one month in the Forensic Psychiatric Institute before being released on $10,000 bail.

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