Manitoba

Family repeats calls for justice 1 year after officer charged in fatal hit-run

It's been just under one year since an off-duty Winnipeg police officer was charged in the fatal hit-and-run death of Cody Severight, and as the anniversary approaches, his family continues to mourn and call for justice.

Former Winnipeg police Const. Justin Holz a no-show at preliminary trial date-setting in court

Curtis Severight, Tyler Severight, Jasmine Kithithee (top row), Gloria Lebold and Nancy Gabriel (bottom row) hoped to see Justin Holz in court today. Holz was charged in connection with a fatal hit and run that left their family member Cody Severight dead last October. (Bryce Hoye/CBC)

It's been just under one year since an off-duty Winnipeg police officer was charged in the fatal hit-and-run death of Cody Severight, and as the anniversary approaches, his family continues to mourn and call for justice.

"I don't want this guy to get away with what he did to Cody," Severight's grandmother, Gloria Lebold, said Monday, flanked by other loved ones who appeared in court, hoping to catch a glance of Justin Holz. "We want justice."

Holz, then a 34-year-old constable with the Winnipeg Police Service, was charged last fall in connection with the hit-and-run that left Severight dead.

Severight, 23, was crossing Main Street near Sutherland Avenue, at about 8 p.m. on Oct. 10, 2017, when a vehicle hit and killed him.

Holz was charged with impaired driving causing death, fleeing the scene of a crash, driving causing death, dangerous driving and driving with a blood alcohol content over the legal limit in connection with the crash.

He meant the world to me and I will never see his happy face again.- Nancy Gabriel

"He took something very precious away from us and what makes it really bad is that he didn't stop when he was supposed to stop. Like, what kind of policeman is that?" Lebold said.

"It brings a lot of bad memories of what happened. We don't even like travelling by the Sutherland Hotel, where this accident happened. That's how much it really bothers us."

Holz was one of five Winnipeg police officers charged with drunk driving-related offences last year.

Two Winnipeg police officers tasked with helping to investigate the case were put on paid administrative leave last fall but have since returned to their regular duties, a Winnipeg police spokesperson confirmed Monday.

Cody Severight, 23, was hit and killed near the intersection of Main Street and Sutherland Avenue on Oct. 10. Const. Justin Holz is charged with impaired driving causing death and fleeing the scene of an accident, among other charges. (Travis Golby/CBC)

They were put on leave a week after the crash and investigated by the the Independent Investigation Unit, in part, for not administering breathalyzer tests to Holz. Those tests weren't administered until three to four hours after the crash, police previously said.

In December, the IIU cleared the two officers of any criminal wrongdoing. A Winnipeg police spokesperson refused to say when the officers returned to active duty or whether they were in any way penalized internally.

'It's kind of maddening'

Holz's case is still working its way through the courts. He has yet to appear himself and instead has had a lawyer appear on his behalf, as he did Monday when a preliminary hearing was scheduled in the New Year.

Nonetheless, Lebold, her daughter and Cody's aunt, Nancy Gabriel, and other family continues to be dedicated to show up every time Holz's name appears on the court docket in the lead up to a possible trial, and repeated their disappointments with not getting to see him in person Monday.

"It's kind of maddening in a way," Lebold said. "We don't know what the heck he looks like."

Gabriel recalled a "happy boy" in Severight, who lived with her for a time. One happy memory is of when he took in Gabriel's daughter's ballet recital.

"He was doing ballet moves, and he was like, 'Look at me,' and he was just laughing," she said. "He meant the world to me and I will never see his happy face again."

Jasmine Kithithee and Cody Severight dated for six years. She says the family will be having a vigil on Oct. 10 to honour Severight one year since his death. (Bryce Hoye/CBC)

Jasmine Kithithee, 21, dated Severight for six years and said Cody's voice will be heard in and outside courtroom walls.

"I'm never going to get over this," she said. "He was just a generous, kind person, like, down to the core."

'I'm out an older brother'

Cody's two brothers were both in jail when his funeral service was held and were unable to attend.

"It was hard, still bugs me today," Curtis Severight, 25, Cody's older brother, said of not being able to be there that day. "I really miss my brother and want to see some justice served for him."

Tyler Severight, 22, said he hopes Holz ends up getting time behind bars

"I'm out an older brother," he said.

Tyler said he looked up to his older brother Cody, who taught him everything he knows. He planned to stay with him when he got out of jail, but that never happened.

"We were together for our whole life and I just talked to him a day before he died," said Tyler. "Sounded like he had his life going for him, and I was happy for him too."

A vigil is be planned for Oct. 10, family said.

About the Author

Bryce Hoye

Reporter

Bryce Hoye is an award-winning journalist and science writer with a background in wildlife biology and interests in courts, social justice, health and more. Story idea? Email bryce.hoye@cbc.ca.