London

Mother of Tristan Roby hopes he'll live to see man sentenced in hit-and-run that almost killed him

Nearly five years after he was almost killed in a hit-and-run crash, the mother of Tristan Roby says further sentencing delays for the man convicted in the case have raised fears that her son may not see justice meted out in his lifetime.

Concerns come after sentencing hearing for Jesse Bleck pushed back to May 28

Tristan Roby leaves the London Courthouse with his mom Abby Roby on July 11, 2023. He spent months in intensive care after suffering life-altering injuries, including severe head trauma, in the hit-and-run on July 21, 2019. He was 17 at the time.
Tristan Roby leaves the London Courthouse with his mom Abby Roby on July 11, 2023. He spent months in intensive care after suffering life-altering injuries, including severe head trauma, in the hit-and-run on July 21, 2019. He was 17 years old at the time. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

Nearly five years after Tristan Roby was almost killed in a hit-and-run crash, his mother says sentencing delays for the man convicted in the case have her worried her son may not see justice in his lifetime.

Sentencing for Jesse Bleck was scheduled to resume on Friday at the London courthouse with submissions from the defence, however the matter was pushed back more than a month after Bleck's lawyer, Brian Eberdt, was unable to attend after falling ill.

"I am anxious to get this to a new date for as soon as possible as we're quickly approaching the one-year anniversary of when this trial started," Justice Kelly Tranquilli said during a brief hearing Friday, before adjourning the proceedings to May 28.

Bleck was convicted in August of failing to remain at the scene of an accident causing bodily harm, and driving while prohibited in the July 21, 2019 collision, which left Tristan with life-altering injuries, including traumatic brain damage.

"We're all pretty upset about it. Obviously, having lived through this entire court experience, it just seems like another delay strategy," said Abby Roby, Tristan's mother, on Friday. 

"I just want it to be over because what I've been dealing within the last couple weeks is getting palliative care set-up, planning funerals. I just wanted this part to be done, because he's done. He's running out of energy for this," she said.

"He's just holding on. I swear. He's just holding on for this trial to be over."

Roby, then 17 years old, had been riding his bike with friend Jack Helsdon along Exeter Road when he was struck by a silver Nissan Altima driven by Bleck, who then fled the scene along with two others in the vehicle. 

The impact of the crash threw Roby more than 10 metres, and left him with injuries including a shearing of the brain, a broken jaw, collapsed lung, and a compound left leg fracture, according to Abby. The injuries left Roby in a wheelchair, and have led to seizures and a "Parkinson-like" disorder.

Bleck was arrested and charged six months after the crash, and was found guilty in August by a jury who rejected the defence argument that he wasn't the one driving.

During a sentencing hearing in February, Roby's victim impact statement, read aloud by Abby, described how Bleck's actions had robbed him of the simple, peaceful life he had wished for. 

"I understand that I have a short life ahead of me."

During the hearing, assistant Crown attorney Artem Orlov described Bleck as someone who could not be rehabilitated or exhibit responsibility, singling out his criminal record, which included driving while prohibited convictions while on release for the hit-and-run.

With closure further out of reach, Abby said her focus now was spending time with Roby and ticking off as many items as possible from his bucket list, including visits to Reptilia and to a butterfly conservatory, among other places.

"He's not good, and I hope that he makes it. I just wish that they would stop prolonging it, so he can at least be there for, and hear, the sentence. I think that's what he's waiting for."

The Crown has said it's seeking a five-year sentence for both charges, along with a 10-year driving ban. The defence has yet to make its full submissions to the court.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matthew Trevithick

Reporter/Editor

Matthew Trevithick is a radio and digital reporter with CBC London. Before joining CBC London in 2023, Matthew worked as a reporter and newscaster with 980 CFPL in London, Ont. Email him at matthew.trevithick@cbc.ca.