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For 11 years, police believed Scott Douglas Quick was a cold-blooded killer who lay in wait for his estranged wife, running her down one morning in a minivan he’d stolen for that very purpose.
On Monday, prosecutors admitted the evidence supporting that belief would not hold up in court. After spending nearly two years in jail awaiting trial, enduring a preliminary hearing that took 11 months to complete, Quick was set free, the first-degree murder charge against him withdrawn.
It’s an unusual turn of events, observer Maria Carroccia, president of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association of Windsor and Essex County, said Monday. “Obviously, the Crown assessed the evidence and the strength of their case and determined there wasn’t a reasonable prospect of conviction.”
Carroccia said she has seen it happen before. But, she added, “It’s much less likely in a case of this magnitude.”
Quick, 50, was charged with the Feb. 23, 2006 hit-and-run death of Nancy Galbraith-Quick. The 40-year-old mom was struck as she crossed the street in front of St. William school in Emeryville where she worked as an educational assistant.
Police suspected Quick from the start, but didn’t charge him until March 2015, nearly nine years later. On Monday, assistant Crown attorney Brian Manarin — one of two prosecutors assigned to the case — asked a Superior Court judge to set Quick free.
The withdrawal of the charges against the former autoworker means he can’t be charged with the same crime again.
Ontario court Justice Lloyd Dean ruled in December that, while the evidence against Quick was almost exclusively circumstantial, there was enough to commit him to stand trial.
But the amount of evidence needed at a preliminary hearing is much lower than what’s needed for a guilty verdict at trial, Carroccia explained. “The test for committal is so low — it’s a scintilla of evidence.”
At trial, a jury must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt.
Quick’s preliminary hearing heard from Nancy’s co-workers who testified Quick had been stalking her and that she feared him. But the morning of the hit-and-run, Nancy had asked Quick to take their son to the orthodontist and had Quick drop the boy off at her home.
Quick’s mistress testified the suspicion swirling around Quick forced them to quit their jobs at Chrysler, pack up their children and move to Brighton, Ont. Quick opened a music store there before taking a job at a big-box outlet in Belleville.
No one could identify Quick as the driver of the vehicle that struck his estranged wife. At least one witness testified at Quick’s preliminary hearing to seeing a man get out of the stolen minivan near I.C. Roy Drive in Lakeshore, and get into a pickup truck. Quick drove a pickup truck, and six polyester fibres found in the stolen van matched blankets police found in Quick’s vehicle.
A seven-year-old girl, who was walking to school with her brother, saw the gold minivan in the church parking lot adjacent the school yard before striking Galbraith-Quick. She said it revved its engine and drove straight at the woman without stopping after throwing her into a tree.
Galbraith-Quick had crossed the road, fumbled in her purse, then turned back toward her car again when she was hit.
Quick’s case was set for a pre-trial in Superior Court later this week. At a pre-trial, lawyers meet behind closed doors and discuss the case with a judge other than the one who will preside over the trial.
Quick’s lawyer, Patrick Ducharme, said it makes sense for the charges to be dropped on the eve of that pre-trial. “This is actually the time that lawyers sit down and discuss the case, discuss its strengths and weaknesses.”
Jerry Galbraith, Nancy’s brother, said he and his wife and sister-in-law asked for a meeting with Crown attorney Nat Bernardon on Monday. Galbraith said a worker in the Crown’s office led the family to a meeting room, then returned 10 minutes later to say Bernardon was not available. Two workers from the victim services office met with them instead.
Bernardon’s office referred media calls Monday to the communications branch of the Ministry of the Attorney General.
Spokesman Philip Klassen, responding in an email, said “The proper administration of criminal justice requires that Crown counsel assess the prosecution at every stage of the proceedings, and is duty bound to withdraw charges if there is no reasonable prospect of conviction. The duty to review the matter is an ongoing one that continues throughout the prosecution. Further, I can tell you that the decision to continue or terminate a prosecution can be one of the most difficult for the Crown to make.”
Essex OPP, who charged Quick, would not comment on the case. They referred questions to Klassen who, in turn, referred inquiries back to Essex OPP.Back To Articles