It was an emotional day in court as the man who killed Daphne Schmidt while driving drunk pleaded guilty in Regina’s provincial court on Monday.
Wade Ganje was about two-and-a-half times the legal limit when he was driving near Southey on Highway 6 on January 21, 2017.
His truck hit the car Schmidt was in, killing her. Her daughter, Dakota, and two small children were also in the car.
When RCMP arrived at the scene, Ganje was not present and had walked away to a nearby rural residence. Police found him there, sitting on the ground in the snow with his back up against a shed.
Ganje could not stand on his own and police had to assist him to their vehicle.
He pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing death and impaired driving causing bodily harm.
The Crown and defense submitted a joint-sentence, which the judge accepted.
The justice sentenced Ganje to 45 months in jail, along with a five-year driving prohibition that will take effect after he is finished his sentence.
Ganje has nine months of time served in remand, leaving 36 months left on his sentence.
Family, friends remember the person Daphne was
Kind, beautiful, having an infectious smile, and being one of the Roughriders biggest fans were just a few of the ways friends and family described Daphne Schmidt in court.
While carrying roses as a tribute to Daphne, many stood up to share victim impact statements. Dakota and Jason Schmidt, Daphne’s widower, were emotional as each person shared how their lives have been changed since Daphne’s death.
Alana Sovdi, Daphne’s sister, said the day she lost Daphne will “hurt forever.”
She said she and her family were only a week away from celebrating Daphne’s birthday with her.
Sovdi said her husband, James, was on the phone with someone and said he could see the fear in her eyes when he said it was her mom. That was when Sovdi found out her sister had been killed.
“The future is so much harder to look forward to,”she said.
Sovdi said she is worried about the lasting effects this is going to have on Dakota.
“My niece watched her mom take her last breath.”
She asked why there isn’t a minimum jail time with these types of cases.
Dakota also stood up to speak about how her life has forever been altered since that day.
“I’m a 21-year-old girl who went to her mother for everything.”
She said Daphne was the most supportive person in her life.
“The day she died, I felt a part of me die too.”
Dakota said she thinks about how she’s never going to be able to help her mom out with her garden again.
She described the events leading up to the crash. She said she asked Daphne to come with her to take her friend’s two young daughters back to Regina.
She said they could see a truck driving erratically on the highway and her mom had told her to be careful. Dakota tearfully said she could hear her mom scream, something she said she still hears.
“Every time I close my eyes, that’s all I see.”
She then told Ganje to look at her to hear what she had to say next.
“You murdered my mom.”
Next, it was Jason’s time to speak.
“She was my world and my world is gone.”
He said him and Daphne used to do almost everything together, and now he “drives in an empty car” and “reaches over across an empty bed.”
Jason said Daphne was willing to sacrifice everything for her family.
“We have lost Daphne and with this, we have lost a piece of ourselves.”
He said he would be willing to give up anything to spend one more day with his wife.
During her sentencing, the judge said the statements showed the family has strength and courage during this difficult time.
After the victim impact statements were read, Ganje stood up to issue an apology for his actions.
He said he is sorry for the pain he has caused Daphne’s family and to his own friends and family.
“I’ve caused so much pain with my actions.”
Ganje had been dealing with depression and was in the middle of a “binge” when he got behind the wheel.
Court heard Ganje had been in remand since the incident and had not sought out bail. Ganje had been attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings while in remand, sharing his story within days of getting arrested. The defence said he had become the leader of the group.
Family wants a longer sentence
Outside of court after the decision was announced, Daphne’s family said the sentence wasn’t long enough.
“Three years is not enough, this has to stop,” Jason said. He added people keep hearing about deaths from impaired driving almost every week.
Dakota agreed with her father about the length of the sentence.
“My mother’s life was worth more than three years, all the celebrations, Christmas, holidays, my wedding, my brother’s wedding, any children I’m going to have, any more children that my brother will have, it’s just, it does not make up for an entire lifetime that she’s going to miss.”
Daphne was described as “the glue that held the family together,” often being the one to plan family events or holidays.
She also loved her job at the daycare.
“Children were everything to her,” Jason said. “I even took a side burner to them most times, sometimes, but you know what, I was alright with that, that’s who Daphne was, she was all about the kids.”
Alana said she was disappointed with how the court process had turned out.
“The last six months have been a horrible, horrible time for all of us and to sit back as a family and have no say, we’ve had no representation, we’ve had no input at all in how to proceedings went,” she said.
Jason, Dakota and Alana all want to see laws toughened when it comes to impaired driving.