Cantelo pleads guilty to drunk driving causing death

A Kings County man who is on trial for impaired driving causing death changed his plea to guilty in Supreme Court Thursday morning.

Kings County man to be sentenced Jan. 10

Stacy Cheverie's husband, Bernard, with his daughter Natasha MacDonald, by his side. 1:49

A Kings County man who is on trial for impaired driving causing death changed his plea to guilty in Supreme Court Thursday morning.

Ray Cantelo, 73, pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing death, impaired driving causing bodily harm and leaving the scene of an accident.

Ray Cantelo gives the thumbs up leaving court on Dec. 12. (CBC)

Stacy 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 October 22, 2011.

Friends and family of Bernard Cheverie wept as they exchanged hugs and handshakes after the surprise turn of events on this, the fourth day of the trial.

Police officers testified Cantelo blew over the legal limit in two breathalyzer tests taken about three hours after the crash.

At the time, he told police that he had drank "three or four stiff drinks" at his girlfriend's house to calm his nerves following the collision.

But an RCMP forensic alcohol specialist testified Wednesday that his blood-alcohol readings were nearly double what they would be if he drank only after the crash.

Son takes the stand

Earlier in the week, the court heard from Cantelo's neighbour and friend, Roger Nowe, who said Cantelo had been drinking at his house just before the accident.

Nowe testified he spoke to Cantelo in his driveway just before he drove away. He said Cantelo was a failed Island Party candidate in the 2011 provincial election and that Cantelo was upset by the loss.

Bernard and Stacy Cheverie, in a family photo from August 2011. (Submitted by Natasha MacDonald)

Nowe offered to drive Cantelo home, but Cantelo left, heading in the direction toward where the collision happened.

Nowe said after the accident, Cantelo asked him to write a letter in his defence, saying Cantelo had not been drinking. Nowe told the court he refused because he didn't want to lie.

On Thursday morning, prior to Ray Cantelo's change of plea, the defence's first witness John Cantelo, Ray Cantelo's son, took the stand.

John Cantelo, who works in B.C. as a miner, came to P.E.I. after the incident.

He said in the days following the crash, he and his father spoke with Nowe on advice of their lawyer who suggested they find people who could clarify events of the day.

Sentencing in January

John Cantelo recounted the conversation for the court.

"I asked him if he saw Ray drinking. He said not a drop. I asked him if my dad seemed drunk. He said he seemed fine."

John Cantelo told the court Nowe had not said during that conversation that he had offered to take Ray Cantelo's keys and drive him home.

When defence lawyer Brenda Picard asked John Cantelo if he asked Nowe to help them, he said: "I asked if he would give a statement. He said not now. He had things to do. He said he was friends with the Cheverie family."

On cross-examination by Crown prosecutor Lisa Goulden, John Cantelo told the court he asked Nowe if his father was drinking at Nowe's house specifically.

"Yes, he said he looked fine."

Following John Cantelo's testimony, there was a brief recession as the lawyers went into the judge's chambers to meet.

When court resumed, Cantelo's lawyer Brenda Picard rose to tell the judge Cantelo would now change his plea to "guilty."

Goulden said Cantelo's guilty plea will be taken into account when he is sentenced.

Supreme Court Justice Gordon Campbell will hand down the sentence Jan. 10.