FERGUS – Lucas Shortreed would be 32 years old today if he hadn’t been left for dead after being struck by a car as he walked home along Wellington Road 17 from a party in Alma on a chilly fall night 14 years ago.
On Oct. 10, 2008, the driver who struck Lucas did not stop or call 911.
Press conferences followed, in 2009 and 2013, at which Lucas’ mother, Judie Moore, and his grandfather, Gerald Shortreed, stood with police and pleaded for someone to come forward.
Early on, police believed the car involved was an older model white Dodge Neon.
Two billboards and numerous posters appeared around the county, and an Armstrong Trucking trailer driven around the province was plastered with the 18-year-old’s face and bold text advertising a “$50,000 reward” for information.
But it wasn’t enough to stir the conscience of anyone out there who knew what happened.
As the family was left to mourn the lost life of their son, brother and grandson, whoever hit and killed Lucas had already made the decision to move on with theirs – a decision repeated over and over as 5,094 days came and went.
But on Sept. 21, police appeared at Moore’s Fergus home with word of a new development in the case of her son’s death.
That morning, police executed a warrant at a Sideroad 21 address in Mapleton and took Arthur residents David Alexander Halliburton and Anastasia Marie Halliburton into custody.
David is charged with failing to stop at the scene of an accident involving bodily harm or death, and Anastasia is charged with accessory after the fact (to commit an indictable offence).
Both have also been charged with obstructing justice, having knowledge of unauthorized possession of a weapon, and careless storage of a weapon, prohibited device or ammunition.
The allegations have yet to be proven in court.
Neighbours told the Advertiser David was a transport truck driver who came and went and largely kept to himself.
Both appeared for the first time in Guelph court on Sept. 22, and were released later that day. Their next court date is Oct. 25.
Publication bans are in place on details stemming from bail hearings, and any identifying information of victims or witnesses.
Moore has long wondered if the day would ever come when the car would be found.
But with the passing of time, expectations changed and finding out who caused her son’s death became less of a priority.
Eventually, she stopped caring at all about whether the day would come.
“Now that it has, I’m glad,” she said in an interview at her home on Thursday.
“It has made me feel better than I thought it would.”
Around 100 kilometres away in Etobicoke, Lucas’ sister Jenneen Beattie was readying for her daughter’s dentist appointment on Wednesday when she read a news report about the arrests.
Her initial reaction was one of disbelief that the car had been found after so long.
Beattie gave up hope four years ago after posting a 10th anniversary video about Lucas to Facebook in the hope it would go viral and provoke a clue.
“After that video, I kind of packed it away,” Beattie said by phone, her voice breaking.
“I really just kind of gave up hope after 10 years that we’d find anything.”
The news and conversations have reopened deep wounds and stirred complex, unresolved emotions for a family with relationships strained by the damage wrought by unanswered questions and the untold ripple effects of Lucas’ death.
“Our family hasn’t even gathered on Thanksgiving and had a proper Thanksgiving dinner since this has happened,” Beattie said.
“We’ve lost a lot.”
Moore says she has lost more than her son. “You lose a little piece of yourself, too.”
Police have so far divulged little to the family, Moore said.
According to Beattie, police intend to meet with the family next week.
“Hopefully they’ll tell us [more] when things settle down,” Moore said.
She commended the Wellington County OPP saying, “they did their due diligence for sure” over years of investigating tips.
“I am positive that they followed up on anybody who said, ‘Oh, there was a white neon,’ and I know at first they were getting a ridiculous amount of calls … and they would still go and look,” she added.
Moore always imagined whoever hit and killed her son was from outside Wellington County, blissfully unaware of their daily suffering.
Having two local people accused is more difficult to comprehend.
“If [the driver] had stopped, none of this would be happening right now,” she said, struggling to find words to express her bewilderment.
“That is not a person I want to know or try to understand.”
Moore hopes her son’s death isn’t in vain and that people can learn from the family’s experience.
“I want it out there: this is partly Lucas’ fault,” she said, adding her son shouldn’t have left the party to wander down a county road while inebriated.
Jesse Matthews, a friend of Lucas and his brother Marcus, told the Advertiser he struggles wondering how Lucas’ life could have turned out differently.
“I was at that party and we were going to get him a ride … and he just wanted to walk it off, and it just tears me apart because we had him a ride and then this [happened],” Matthews said by phone.
“I’ll come meet you there later,” were the last words Tarique Todd said to Lucas, his best friend, as Lucas left the party.
Todd met Lucas in Grade 7 and the two became fast friends.
“He was just a big teddy bear, a big, huge guy who loved everybody,” Todd told the Advertiser by phone. “He always put a smile on everyone’s face.”
After his death, Todd and three other close friends got the Wu-Tang Clan hip-hop group’s logo—a stylized letter ‘W’ resembling a flying bird—tattooed on them with Lucas’ name, or his nickname “Pigglet,” in the middle.
“Everytime anyone hears ODB or another Wu-Tang song, you just turn it up and smile and think of the guy,” Todd said.
The arrests mean a lot to friends who were close to Lucas.
For Todd, the arrests mean that his best friend’s life “didn’t just go away,” and called the news a “complete bombshell.”
But the outcome from the court process, he said, will “never bring back Luc.”
“People say this is closure now, but it will never be closure, it’s actually just starting now after 14 years … and it’s bringing up a lot of emotions for people that loved him,” Todd said.
Moore hopes the legal process doesn’t drag out, but said closing the case and putting it behind her is only a tiny part of a much larger journey.
“I feel like I’ve never properly mourned Lucas,” she said.
The day she learned about her son’s death, the family was coincidentally moving from one home to another.
She had three other children to look after, and her mother had recently suffered a stroke.
She also couldn’t afford to take much time away from work.
Of the past 32 years of her memories of Lucas, Moore said 14 have been marred by the search for who left him for dead.
It has been increasingly difficult to focus on the positive memories, she said, rather than those overshadowed by sorrow.
In all those years, Moore said she hasn’t felt able to take time by her son’s grave and sit with her emotions.
“My plan is to now mourn – to take the time,” she said.