Crown defends plea bargain in case of fatal Grande Prairie crash
Published Wednesday, February 27, 2013 10:03AM MST
Last Updated Wednesday, February 27, 2013 6:19PM MST
The man charged in the death of four Grande Prairie high school football players more than one year ago has been sentenced to three years in prison.
On Wednesday, the judge in the case agreed to a joint submission from the Crown and defence, that Brenden Holubowich, 23, face three years in prison followed by a three year driving prohibition.
The sentence came down after Holubowich pleaded guilty to four counts of dangerous driving causing death and one count of dangerous driving causing bodily harm on Tuesday.
“We had the best evidence on those five charges, and those are the charges he offered his guilty plea to,” Crown attorney Jason Neustaeter said.
Charges were laid against Holubowich following a fatal crash on Highway 668, near Highway 40 on October 22, 2011.
Four teenaged boys were killed in the crash – 16-year-olds Matthew Deller, and Vincent Stover, and 15-year-olds Walter Borden-Wilkins and Tanner Hildebrand.
A fifth teen, Zach Judd, was seriously injured in the collision, but has since recovered.
Details of night heard in court
According to the agreed statement of facts read on Tuesday, Holubowich had been drinking with friends before the collision – but the Crown and defence asked the judge to take into account that speed played a major role in the crash.
Court documents state Holubowich had been driving at 151 kilometres an hour, when the collision happened – the car carrying the teenagers had been making a U-turn when it was hit.
The four killed in the crash died from their injuries on the scene, and Judd was clinging to life when Holubowich fled the scene.
For the hour immediately following the crash, Holubowich was unaccounted for.
“That time is unexplained, unexplained other than by home so that obviously played a role in whether or not the Crown would have been able to prove those charges.
“We would have tried to tender some circumstantial evidence about that, but at the end of the day he offered a guilty plea to the strongest charges the Crown had.”
Justice William Tilleman said this case was the most difficult he’d handled as a judge – he said he went over several cases that had been before the court of appeal, in addition to taking into account the impact the crash had on the families and friends of the victims, and the community as a whole.
However, he also said he considered what the events had meant for Holubowich’s family, and the fact that the accused had no criminal record, and a clean driving record.
While there were a number of events of that night the judge wasn’t allowed to hear, but there was one fact the father of Matthew Deller, the teen who had been driving the car, was relieved to hear released.
Leon Deller was glad when proof was given, publicly, that his son had no evidence of drugs or alcohol in his system.
“I had that proof already, but for it to be public knowledge is relieving,” Deller said.
Families, on both sides, react to decision
On Wednesday, the victim’s families were quick to react to Holubowich’s sentence.
“He killed four young men, and injured one, and he goes for three years,” Deller said. “Quite likely on parole in eight months to a year, it’s not right.”
The mother of the lone survivor called the sentence a ‘slap on the wrist’.
“I don’t even know what to say, the courts just failed us, completely,” Desiree Judd said outside of the courthouse. “They failed the boys, they failed Zach.
“I mean, three years, with early release, he’s not getting anything. He’s a young boy, but our kids are younger.”
Judd’s son was reportedly devastated by the decision, and was too upset to speak outside of court Wednesday morning – he had told the judge he’d contemplated suicide in the time since the fatal crash.
After the sentence was handed down, Holubowich’s mother read a statement, echoing what her son had said in court the day before.
“We cannot image the loss or the grief that you’ve experienced,” Teresa Bateman said. “No matter how much we might pray, hope or wish that it isn’t so, the tragedy can never be reversed, and for this we are sorry.”
With files from Amanda Anderson