Drunk driver sentenced as parents of teen victim describe 'empty, silent life'

Two years ago, two doting parents had just begun to imagine celebrating their 19-year-old daughter's adult milestones — college graduation, marriage and babies. Instead, they sat in a Calgary courtroom Wednesday as a judge sentenced the drunk driver who killed her. 

Sabrina Festa-Oliveira died instantly on Sept. 29, 2016, when Cody Uhrich, 35, drove head-on into her car as he drove the wrong way on Highway 2. 

Uhrich pleaded guilty in January to impaired driving causing death and was sentenced to 3½ years in prison on Wednesday. At the time of the crash, Uhrich had a blood-alcohol level of between .205 and .249.

"It is clear Sabrina was an outstanding person, loved by all, a light to everyone around her," said provincial court Judge Marlene Graham in handing down the sentence.

'Empty, silent life without Sabrina'

Festa-Oliveira's father rested his head on the pew in front of him while his wife wiped tears away with the mention of each agonizing detail of the night their daughter was killed. 

"We have been forced into an empty, silent life without Sabrina," the parents wrote in a victim impact statement.

"Sabrina was the biggest gift a man and a woman could ever have."

At the crash scene, police found four cans of beer in Uhrich's Jeep, and, according to the agreed statement of facts, "with the doors of the ambulance shut, an overwhelming odour of liquor filled the cabin."

Three hours later, police knocked on the door of the parents' home to deliver the news.

"This is an era where the consequences of drinking and driving draw so much attention. To think that this continues is baffling," said prosecutor Jillian Pawlow.

Uhrich apologizes

Defence lawyer Alain Hepner said his client had a difficult upbringing. Uhrich was in court alone, with no friends or family there to support him.

Before he was sentenced, Uhrich read an apology letter he'd written to Festa-Oliveira's parents.

He wrote about his shame and torment and his wish that he could have died instead of Festa-Oliveira.

"I wish I had not walked away that night," he said. "I have always wanted to say I'm sorry to your family, I am sorry for the grief I have caused you."

"I hope one day I can find a way to make amends."

In their statement, Festa-Oliveira's parents told Uhruch he'd been given the gift of a second chance. 

"You will see the sun come up and go down. You will have the pleasure of sitting at the dinner table and talking, laughing and experiencing all that life has to offer during precious moments … we will be left with nothing."

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