Impaired driver kills parents of 5 and serves only 7 months in jail

I was deeply saddened by the news that Chad Olsen was granted full parole this month. In 2010, he drove drunk and hit and killed Brad and Krista Howe leaving their 5 children (aged between 5 and 15) orphaned in an instant.

The Howe’s took part in this year’s MADD Canada’s school assembly program video which The Dude also participated in so I am very familiar with their story and felt an even deeper sense of sadness for them.

The 25-year-old only actually served 7 months in custody (custody being Bowden’s minimum-security annex, which houses low-risk inmates in dormitory-style bungalows outside the prison walls). So when you read that he spent time in a federal prison, let’s be clear. It was no Shawshank.

After 7 months, Olsen was granted day parole where he lived in a half way house and had to abide by a curfew and a condition banning him from drinking alcohol. Then…just this month he was granted full parole, which means he will serve out the remaining 2 years and a couple of months of his sentence in the community. He gets to live with his fiancé, work full-time, maybe go back to school etc. Whatever. The only 2 special conditions are that he abstains from alcohol and that he attends psychological counselling. And he has to check in with a parole officer.

He was granted full parole because the board found that he did not pose undue risk to the public and full parole would help him ease back into full integration with society.

Well isn’t that swell!

I am sure if you had asked any of Olsen’s friends and family before the crash, they would have said he didn’t pose an undue risk to the public.

I understand about rehabilitation. I understand about re-integration but what about the victims’ and society’s right to expect an offender to face and serve adequate consequences for the nature of the crime? Two people lost their lives, 5 children will grow up orphans, some so young they likely won’t even really remember their parents.

It shouldn’t be just about his risk factor to reoffend, how sorry he is and what a “good” person he really is. It should also be about all of that AND whether he paid his debt and faced appropriate consequences for his actions.

Olsen’s blood alcohol level was 3 times over the legal limit. He ran a red light doing 85 KM an hour. He KILLED 2 people who were only 34 and 35 years old and had 5 children depending on them. He did that. He made that choice.

How is 7 months custody, 9 months day parole, and 2+ years full parole even close to adequate?

In a news report, Olsen is quoted as saying he’s not a terrible person; he just made a terrible mistake.

And I get that. To be frank, if I knew him I’d likely even agree with him. I’d probably feel sorry for him and wish the whole thing had never happened. But that’s not the point. It doesn’t matter how “good” of a person he was/is, how sorry he is, or what a “terrible mistake” it was. It was a choice. A choice to drive drunk that cost the lives of 2 very innocent people and the consequences for that choice need to be paid. Period.

I am stunned. That this is what Brad and Krista’s lives were worth according to our justice system? 7 months in jail? That’s it?

Sure day parole and full parole have restrictions but come on! Olsen is living with his fiancé, has a full-time job, is thinking about going back to school, and is reintegrating back into life with family and friends with Christmas on the horizon. While the Howe children are wondering how to get through another holiday without their parents. They are the ones serving a life sentence for his choices.

How can any read this story and think “oh yeah, if it was my Mom and Dad he ran down drunk and killed, I’d be cool with him only serving 7 months…and getting full parole after only 16 months…I mean, he didn’t mean to do it, right?!”

And what message does this send out? What does this say to other potential offenders?

To me, it says that our system is a joke.

I commend the family for their response to his parole. Krista’s mother is quoted in the news as saying that if Olsen follows through with his plans to give back to the community, including plans to talk to high school students about the dangers of drinking and driving, then full parole is a good thing. She hopes something good can come out of all it going as far as saying that she’d welcome Olsen joining forces with her to fight for increase impaired driving penalties.

Having just sat in a parole board hearing wondering if the drunk driver that killed my mother-in-law would be released after serving only 14 months in the not-really-a-jail jail, I don’t think I could have been as kind.

Nope.

She’s a braver woman than I.

Olsen’s release comes just days before new legislation for impaired drivers will take effect in Alberta on September 1. Maybe had these initiatives been in place, the Howe’s would still be with us. Alas, I know hubby and I have played the “what if” game a zillion times. I know hubby has been tormented and guilt-ridden wondering what he could have done differently that would have altered his Mom’s choice to be on the road that day. But in the end, we can’t look back because we can’t change anything. All we can do is look forward towards prevention.

Police have said in various news reports that they feel the new strengthened legislation will give them more tools to deal with impaired drivers.

I say HOORAH to that!

And to the non-supporters of the new legislation, I say “lose a loved one to this crime and then come talk to me. Until then, shut your pie hole and pound sand!

What do you think about day and full parole? Do you think the nature of the crime and the impact on victims should be taken into consideration before an offender is conditionally released? How do we determine “appropriate consequences” for crimes? How do you let go of the “what if” game? I’d love to hear your thoughts…

On August 1, 2009, my beautiful mother-in-law’s life was cut tragically short by an impaired driver and my stepson’s life changed forever. In honor of Donna and Jordan Kennie, please don’t drink and drive. Impaired driving is 100% preventable. Think about it.

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Comments

  1. Hubby aka The Blog Heckler says:

    Every criminal could use the excuse; “he’s not a terrible person; he just made a terrible mistake”.

    Bank Robber, drug dealer, murderers, what it comes down to is YOU MADE IT! NOW PAY THE PRICE! Why do these people that murder our friends and family on our roads – not get appropriate punishment – being drunk shouldn’t be a get out of jail card…but it seems to be in Canada!

  2. I have shared your collective pain (Nat, Blog Heckler Hubby, and son) many times as you continue the worthwhile struggle to raise awareness of the cost paid by victims of drunks drivers.

    I’ve seen many “nudge from the judge” impaired drivers enter AA rooms, secure their required signatures to comply with court-ordered attendance, then leave and “go back out.” I know others with many years of sobriety that started with that nudge and initial attendance.

    The struggle is to know which ones will “Stick.” Without severe, fear-inducing consequences, I can’t see how we can force impaired people to call a friend, call a cab, or stay home to drink.

    God bless you, your family, and The Cause.

  3. Hey, guys, glad you’re continuing to get the word out about these lax laws. That is absolutely ridiculous. I just found this list of laws in individual states in the U.S., put together by MADD: http://www.madd.org/laws/law-overview/Vehicular_Homicide_Overview.pdf In my state (Virginia), it’s 1 to 20 years.

    Seriously? I thought it was tougher than that, especially after the incident in our area 2 years ago, where a drunk driver (a man in the country illegally, AND driving on a revoked license for 2 other DUI convictions) hit a car with three elderly Benedictine nuns in it. One nun died on the scene, and the other two were critically injured and put on respirators, and have since had multiple surgeries and other long-term after-effects. Here’s one article about it, if you’re interested: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/martinelly-guilty-of-felony-murder-in-crash-that-killed-nun-in-va/2011/10/31/gIQAYI6ZaM_story.html

    Because it was his third, they were able to charge him with felony murder, which carries a maximum of 70 years. He got 20. I guess they’ll deport him after his time is up, but I don’t know. Sigh.

    You all be careful this Labor Day weekend! There will probably be more crazies out on the roads.

  4. It doesn’t seem possible, almost like a science-fiction story. I assumed, wrongly of course, that murder by alcohol carried the same sentence as murder. I’m a little shocked.

    • It is shocking Ali, when you learn what really happens. In Canada, there is a maximum sentence for impaired driving causing death that is similar to murder…however, there are no minimum sentences and judges go by precedence (what other judges have done and the court of appeals have upheld). That means 3 to 5 years right now in jail. Which is FAR improved over the 2-year conditional sentence (served in the community) that it used to be. However, it still isn’t enough and with day parole and full parole, offenders of this deadly crime are serving next to no time. And what time they do serve is NOT in a “real” jail by any measure…

      It is sad…because it is murder! And even worse…precedence set sentences take a LONG time to change…

      But…we are in it for the long haul and it warms my heart to know that I have inform just one person…

      Tks for swinging by…

  5. I am surprised he isn’t required to contribute to the financial support of those children until they’re adults and on their own. it’s a travesty. in truth, this new law won’t change people like him. They will ensure that people like me, who have a casual drink once in a while will never have a single drink and then drive within 5 or 6 hours. I might not (likely wouldn’t be over the limit) but i won’t take the chance. people who get blottoed to 3 times the legal limit won’t be stopped by this law. it’s disgusting.

    totally wrong.

    • The new laws do have some actionable consequences for those over .08 where they lose their license immediately for 30 days…and the vehicle is impounded. That being said, agree Louise, the new laws certainly don’t do enough to target the seriously drunk drivers while they do target the more casual ones…why they don’t just got to zero tolerance (which they practically are) is beyond me because then, there would never be a doubt.

      Or put new laws in place that really put a serious bite into those people driving at more than twice the legal limit!

      Hubby and I used to be ok with driving after 2 beer but now, we have a zero tolerance rule. It’s just not worth the risk. And 2 beer or 2 glasses of pop or alcohol-free margarita…same difference…

      I wish they would adopt random breath testing…and/or seriously tighten up some of the loopholes for breath and blood samples in the case of injuries or fatality. I wondered the same thing. I read that the family (the children), are suing him civilly for 3.5 Million. Not sure how but I hope they win and have a means to collect!!

  6. Natalie – I wish it weren’t true – but it’s going to keep happening. What I wouldn’t give for more people to be able to make it to parole hearings and be allowed to speak and petition as to why the individual should not be allowed back on the streets. We all know about repeat offenders. I have a parole hearing I go to every 5 years–wouldn’t miss it for the world–even though I have to fly 3,000 miles to make my presence known and to glare into the eyes of a cold blooded killer.

    After working in the criminal justice arena for 20 years and then to experience first hand (like you and your family) the total inadequacies of our criminal justice system – we all deserve to be heard. Keep up the good work.

  7. Karen McFarland says:

    I have so much respect for you Natalie and your family as you continue relentlessly to expose the injustice of this MADDning drunk driving travesty. It doesn’t seem to matter what country you live in. There is no justice anymore. I have to say, that I like Louise Behiel’s idea. Why isn’t this man forced to financially support the children of those innocent parents that had their life cut short by a murderer. He is after all responsible for their deaths. There is no excuse good enough for what he did. That said, try to have a nice weekend! :0

    • So true Karen!! You and Louise are right and I do hope he is held accountable in the civil courts. Doesn’t happen often in Canada but I have my fingers crossed for this family. Financial restitution should absolutely be a part of sentencing!!!!!

      You have a wonderful weekend as well!!

  8. I think that anyone who willingly drives while impaired did NOT make a terrible mistake. They knowingly make a choice that could kill someone. How is that different from someone with a gun? With all the information out there, the education, the videos, the message given over and over again that driving impaired is illegal, to me it’s the same thing as walking around with a loaded gun. If that gun goes off and kills someone, do they get 7 months in jail for making a terrible mistake? I doubt it. This story makes me sad, but I still have hope that things can change.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Distilled spirits. Need I say more? It’s all about good health this month. I know what you’re thinking, but hear me out. A little liquor loosens the muscles and joints and helps me move better and relax. A nice cosmo or snifter of brandy helps me sleep. A glass of wine improves the quality of my cooking. I love cooking with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food. Of course too much of a good thing can have an adverse effect and I strongly recommend moderation. And never, and I do mean NEVER drink and drive! Natalie Hartford will tell you why in her blog. https://nataliehartford.com/2012/08/31/impaired-driver-kills-parents-of-5-and-serves-only-7-months-in… […]

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