GUELPH – “If you would have just stopped … we could have moved on."
That was the message the sister of Lucas Shortreed, Jenneen Beattie, delivered to David and Anastasia Halliburton in a packed Guelph courtroom Tuesday shortly before the pair were sentenced in the hit and run death of her brother almost 15 years ago.
One after another, family members spoke of the kind, caring, “gentle giant” they and the Fergus community lost the night of Oct. 10, 2008, and how David and Anastasia Halliburton crushed a family by not coming forward that night, the day after or anytime after they fatally struck Lucas as he walked home from a party on Wellington Road 17.
In court Tuesday morning, David Halliburton pleaded guilty to fail to remain at the scene of an accident causing bodily harm or death and obstruction of justice and received two-and-a-half years in prison and a three year driving ban. His wife pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and careless storage of a firearm and was given six months house arrest, 12 months probation and 200 hours of community service.
The impact of losing her son and not knowing who did it was something Judie Moore had trouble describing in words and in many ways is still recovering from Lucas’ death.
“Identifying Lucas is a vision that still haunts me,” she told the courtroom.
She listed off many ailments she attributed to the stress and fallout of the hit-and-run, the years going by with no answers and then the arrest of the Halliburtons in September 2022, including depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, asthma and exacerbating a heart issue to the point she required open heart surgery earlier this year.
It wasn’t just her, but her three children — all adults at the time — who suffered as well, which she explained fractured the family to the point where she said they haven’t celebrated one holiday or even had a family dinner together since that time.
“Feels like I lost four children,” said Pat Shortreed, Lucas’ father.
Pat Shortreed said he accepted accidents happen but couldn’t accept the couple leaving his son on the side of the road and covering up the crime after the fact.
Through all the pain their family took time to reflect on the kind person Lucas was.
Uncle John Moore said he remembered him as a “gentle giant” with a big laugh and kind presence who was very close with his grandmother, always helping her with her yearly canned peaches.
Another uncle, Jim Moore, said the last time he saw him, Lucas took the time to go to a store to buy a toy for his younger cousins for them to put together as a group.
But all were left with a simple question: why didn’t David Halliburton stop that night?
That wasn’t answered in court but the agreed statement of facts read by the Crown laid out what happened and how the Halliburtons were eventually caught.
Court heard Lucas was at a house party in Alma and left around 10:30 p.m. He'd been drinking and showed signs of being a little drunk, but could walk and talk.
Just before midnight, the Halliburtons, along with their then-11-year-old son in the back seat, were driving down Wellington Road 17, heading home from a friend's house.
Dave Halliburton had been drinking but didn't believe he was over the legal limit. He said he saw Lucas at the last second on the dark road. He hit him with his Dodge Neon, throwing Lucas 30 feet, the windshield shattering on impact.
Halliburton stopped the car briefly, looked back, then drove off. His son receiving minor injuries from flying glass.
The Halliburton's son asked his parents what happened. He was told they hit a deer.
Once home, the car hid in the trailer and had bleach dumped on it. A replacement Neon of the same year and colour was later purchased and Halliburton switched the plates and dashboard from the damaged Neon into the replacement vehicle.
Lucas was discovered by another driver a short time later and pronounced dead at the scene by first responders. An autopsy showed he had extensive injuries including a transection of the spinal cord, broken ribs, fractured left tibia and multiple lacerations. Court heard his death was likely instantaneous.
Investigation determined he was struck by a white Dodge Neon which led OPP to check hundreds of registered Neons in the region.
This included the Halliburtons at 7785 Sideroad 21, not far from where Lucas was struck. Police saw no damage and confirmed the license plate and VIN was registered to Anastasia Halliburton on two occasions.
Five years later, the OPP would ask to use the Halliburton’s vehicle as an example for a re-creation video police were making in a plea for information.
In 2022, OPP received a public tip that there was a white Dodge Neon concealed at the Halliburton property where a semi-trailer was observed.
In August 2022, OPP got a general warrant to covertly enter the semi-trailer where the damaged vehicle was seen.
This led to a full search warrant which led to the arrest of the couple after the vehicle was discovered in the trailer hidden behind a false wall.
Police intercepted a call David Halliburton made to his daughter where he confessed he was responsible.
David Halliburton told his daughter, “even if I was stone cold sober I would have done the exact same thing.”
This cover-up had the family in their impact statements call the Halliburtons "compassionless," people who went on living as normal while their lives were upended and in never ending grief.
Jim Moore didn’t want to hear any apologies from the couple and noted he could imagine Lucas telling him to “just let it go man.”
“I’m sure you’re sorry you never got rid of the car,” he said.
After the sentence had been delivered and the courtroom cleared, Judie Moore and Beattie told reporters there was a sense of relief that this was finally over.
“I’m grateful to have the opportunity to read my victim impact statement before the accused … there’s real healing I think that will come out of that process,” Beattie said.
While some in the courtroom could be heard remarking about what they saw as a lenient punishment for the crime, Judie Moore said it’s about the maximum it can be and are being judged beyond the court system.
“I think now they’re being punished beyond the court system by their family and friends, they’ve lost their house, their sense of community now,” Judie Moore said. “We have all the community support, they’ve lost everything.”
Judie Moore noted the name Lucas means bringer of light and with the investigation behind hoped “his light will shine through.”