Richard Benson sentenced to two years, lifetime driving ban
Parents of Richard Benson's victims describe loss in St. Paul, Alta., school crash
Richard Benson, charged with killing an 11-year-old girl and severely injuring two others, was sentenced to two years less a day and given a lifetime driving ban at a sentencing hearing in St. Paul, Alta., Thursday.
"I think the public should be satisfied," said Crown prosecutor Jeff Rudiak. "It was a medical case. We' re going to protect the public by having a lifetime driving prohibition."
"And the two years that he got in custody is actually right in the middle of the range. We were asking for three, we got two. So, the justice split it right in the middle, so we can't be dissatisfied."
The sentence leaves Benson 11 and-a-half months to serve.
- Classroom crash victim was 'energetic and passionate'
- Guilty plea in minivan crash that killed St. Paul girl
- Man involved in Alberta school crash was having a seizure
Benson is now in a mental health ward under strict observation by doctors for medication purposes due to mental health issues, said his lawyer Jason Conlin.
"He somehow has to find the courage to live with himself and what he's done," Conlin said.
Benson pleaded guilty in September to one count of criminal negligence causing death and two counts of criminal negligence causing bodily harm after he crashed his minivan into a school during a seizure one year ago.
Life was shattered, mother says
The mother of Megan Wolitski told a crowded St. Paul, Alta., courtroom that her life was shattered and she doesn't know what happiness is anymore after her daughter died one day after the crash.
Sherry Wolitski placed photos of her daughter on the witness stand prior to the reading of her victim impact statement Thursday morning.
Megan's father Thomas Wolitski told Justice Paul Belzil it was impossible to watch kids playing or dancing without thinking of his daughter.
Belzil warned the courtroom that today's sentencing of 47-year-old Richard Benson would be difficult for everyone. He said he did a lot of preparation for the hearing, including reading many of the victim impact statements.
While Rudiak recommended a sentence of three years in custody and a lifetime ban on driving, Conlin suggested time served plus two years probation and a 10-year driving ban would be appropriate.
Nonetheless Conlin agreed with the final sentence.
"It was a fit and proper sentence, given the facts scenario."
Court documents show Benson had a seizure at the time his van crashed into a classroom of Racette Junior High in St. Paul last November, pinning three girls underneath the vehicle.
Two of the three girls survived the crash but were badly hurt. One — Maddie Guitard — was left in a permanent vegetative state.
Daughter lost her future
Kasia Guitard told Belzil her daughter had lost any future and all she can do is stand by and watch as her life slips away.
Guitard said she still holds her daughter's hand and desperately hopes that one day Maddie will squeeze back.
Guitard also read a statement on behalf of her daughter. "I haven't spoken or laughed in over a year. I wasn't finished living yet."
Paul Guitard said Megan and his daughter were good friends and he still cannot shake the terrible image of the two girls lying in hospital beds three metres apart.
The Guitards recently bought a new house and are renovating so their daughter can be moved home.
Benson had been told by doctors that medication was needed to prevent his seizures resulting from an earlier brain injury, but he rarely took his prescriptions.
Benson said he lied on his license applications about his medical condition because he needed to drive to look after his five children.
He has suffered seizures since being hit on the head with a pipe in 2002 after confronting two older men who were hanging out with his daughter.
Conlin said Benson lives near the community and will likely return to it once he is released from jail.
"He's maintained from the beginning that he's been remorseful," Conlin said. "He's happy that, perhaps, the community can put all this behind them and start, maybe, getting a sense of finality to these issues."
The last year has been hard on Benson's family as well with his children being removed from school because of name-calling, Conlin said.
CBC reporter John Archer (@cbcarch) attended the hearing and filed live updates from the courthouse in the tweets below.