Ray Cantelo, who struck and killed a passenger on a motorcycle while driving drunk in eastern P.E.I. in October 2011, was sentenced Thursday to five years in prison.
Cantelo had originally pleaded not guilty to charges of impaired driving causing death, impaired driving causing bodily harm, and leaving the scene of an accident, but changed his plea in December after the Crown had finished presenting its case against him.
'Aggressive, arrogant, cocky, demeaning, disrespectful, self serving.'—Supreme Court Justice Gordon Campbell
Stacey Cheverie, 38 of Fortune Road, died, and her husband Bernard was seriously injured when their motorcycle collided with a van at the intersection of Peakes and St. Patricks roads on Oct. 22, 2011.
The five-year term consists of four years for impaired driving causing death, a concurrent 18-month sentence for impaired driving causing bodily harm, and a consecutive sentence of one year for leaving the scene of an accident. Cantelo will also have to provide a DNA sample and is banned from driving for 10 years.
Justice Gordon Campbell said 73-year-old Cantelo's behaviour after the incident was a factor in the sentencing.
"Aggressive, arrogant, cocky, demeaning, disrespectful, self serving," said Campbell.
"[He] failed to acknowledge any role in the tragedy he caused. No sympathy, no remorse."
Justice leaned toward Crown recommendation
Crown prosecutor Lisa Goulden had asked for a five to five and a half year sentence for Cantelo. She cited another case from the last year, where Clarence Arnold Moase was sentenced to six years.
'It is reprehensible to human decency to leave an injured person lying in the road to escape responsibility and even more abhorrent to obstruct police to hide evidence.'—Crown Attorney Lisa Goulden
"There is no offence more serious than one which takes a human life," said Goulden.
"There is no suggestion that Ray Cantelo cannot distinguish right from wrong. He tried to obstruct police and avoid prosecution. He had choices. He could choose not to drink and drive. Bernard Cheverie had the right of way. Stacy Cheverie was innocently riding on the back of her husband's motorcycle on a beautiful fall day."
Goulden also pointed out that Moase stopped after he killed a woman riding a bicycle, while driving his van while he was drunk. Cantelo stopped briefly and then drove off.
"It is reprehensible to human decency to leave an injured person lying in the road to escape responsibility and even more abhorrent to obstruct police to hide evidence," she said.
Goulden said because Cantelo forced a trial, Cheverie had to relive the tragedy, and be reminded of his wife's screaming – which was the last time he heard her voice.
Defence lawyer Brenda Picard had recommended a four-year sentence.
In reference to the Moase sentence, she noted Moase had four prior convictions for impaired driving. Picard said Cantelo has no history of impaired driving, and the incident seems to be out of character.
"I would say there are no aggravating factors," said Picard.
"That may sound harsh to someone who does not know the law, but there were no high speeds or dangerous driving."
Family reads victim impact statements
The court heard Thursday morning from Cheverie's family, who read victim impact statements.
'I was 22 years old. I had never seen my dad cry, not like that.'—Natasha MacDonald, Stacy Cheverie's daughter
Ray Cantelo sat with eyes closed and arms folded, listening to victim impact testimony with aid of court-supplied ear phones.
"To me there is one day I will never forget," said Cheverie's mother, Helen MacDonald.
"Stacy and I laughed and talked as Bernard got the bike ready to go for a ride. They waved goodbye. I was in the kitchen when the phone rang to tell me of a terrible accident. I was stunned. It was my baby girl. We went to hospital to find no Stacy, just Bernard."
Stacy's sister Joanne McInnis described how Cheverie was excited about her new home, and looking forward to growing old with her husband Bernard.
Another sister, Karen, described Cantelo's behaviour since the incident.
"We live close to the offender," she said.
"He has tried to strike up conversation as if nothing has happened. He shows no remorse. "
Stacy Cheverie's daughter Natasha MacDonald submitted a statement that was read out by her cousin.
"It was a full two weeks after the accident that my dad awoke from his coma in a Halifax hospital," she wrote.
"I was 22 years old. I had never seen my dad cry, not like that."
Justice Campbell described impaired driving as a serious crime, and noted the frequency of it on the Island is double the national average. He said sentences need to be increased.