By Shurtz, Delon on September 12, 2020.
On Nov. 25, 2019, Betty Ment was leaving Coalhurst with her dog Sadie to drive to a nearby dog show. It was one of her favourite things to do.
It was about 7:15 p.m. and she was stopped at a stop sign on 51 Avenue in the town of Coalhurst where it intersects with Highway 3. The building where the dog show was being held was only minutes away, in fact, just across the highway, but she never made it.
A white VW Jetta westbound on Highway 3 collided with Ment’s red Ford Escape, and the 66-year-old woman was killed. The driver of the VW was taken to Chinook Regional Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
Wesley Brian Phillips was charged with refusal to comply with a breath demand, impaired driving causing death and dangerous driving causing death. Although that was nearly a year ago, the matter remains unresolved, primarily because Phillips has disappeared.
Ment’s family is frustrated by the delays and the accused’s repeated failure to attend court, and no one, not the police, the Crown or even his previous lawyer, seems to know where he is.
“We want to get this guy off the street,” says Ment’s son, Travis Ratzloff.
Ratzloff believes Phillips’ girlfriend knows where he is, and says Phillips may be travelling regularly to Airdrie to see his children. But so far, he’s evaded police armed with warrants for his arrest, and Ratzloff worries it may only be a matter of time before someone else is hurt.
“Sooner or later he’s going to kill somebody else’s mom.”
Speaking from his residence near Edmonton, Ratzloff becomes emotional as he talks about his mother. He says she never gave up on him and literally saved his life when he was going through difficult times and was not in a good place.
“She’s the reason I’m still alive.”
His mother had a rough life of her own, yet she was always kind to others, something Ratzloff still struggles to understand because “all she went through.”
Ratzloff is not only frustrated and angry that the accused has disappeared, he’s also angry at the justice system that allowed him to be repeatedly released from custody.
Phillips was released shortly after he was charged in relation to the collision with Ment, then re-arrested in February on outstanding warrants from Airdrie, where he faces charges of unlawfully being in a dwelling and failing to comply with a probation order.
He was released again in March on $3,000 no-cash bail and ordered to keep the peace, reside at an approved residence, abstain from alcohol and drugs, not possess any weapons, and obey a nightly curfew.
After repeatedly missing subsequent court hearings, a warrant was issued for his arrest in June.
Crown Prosecutor Michael Fox said during the June hearing, that the Crown lost track of the accused because he is not living at the residence at which he had previously been ordered to reside. Fox said one of Phillips’ previous bail conditions was to reside at the northside residence, but the owners, who had not been consulted beforehand, refused to let him stay and police were called to remove him.
Only a few hours later the 37-year-old man was arrested following a disturbance at a city liquor store, but the bail office released him without dealing with his previous bail condition concerning his living arrangements.
“He’s clearing avoiding us,” Fox said.
The accused was charged, in relation to the liquor store disturbance, with mischief over $5,000, assault, failing to comply with previous release conditions, failing to comply with a probation order and uttering threats to cause death or bodily harm.
Ratzloff says the accused has no regard for the law or human life, and as much as he hopes Phillips turns himself in, he doesn’t for a minute believe he will.
“I don’t think he’s got big enough balls,” he says.
The Lethbridge Police Service has posted Phillips’ face on its WantedWednesday campaign, urging anyone with information on his whereabouts to call police at 403-328-4444 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477. Anonymous tips can also be submitted online at http://www.p3tips.com.
Ment’s family hopes someone knows where Phillips is and will call the police.
Follow @DShurtzHerald on Twitter