Ex-lawyer handed 3½-year sentence for impaired hit-and-run crash that killed Edmonton teen

·7 min read

A former Edmonton lawyer convicted of impaired driving causing death in a hit-and-run crash that killed a teenage girl two years ago has been sentenced to three and half years in prison, followed by a five-year driving prohibition.

Shane Stevenson, 50, pleaded guilty last week to a single count of impaired driving causing death in the April 2018 collision that killed 16-year-old Chloe Wiwchar.

Speeding and impaired, Stevenson struck the girl in a marked crosswalk on Kingsway, before fleeing the scene. He was arrested later that night with a blood-alcohol level more than double the legal limit.

Stevenson was sentenced by Justice Peter Michalyshyn in Edmonton's Court of Queen's Bench on Wednesday.

In addition to his prison sentence, Stevenson was also handed an eight and half year driving prohibition. Once released, his licence will be suspended for five years.

He will also be required to submit his DNA to a national criminal database.

Stevenson, who has remained out on bail since the crash, was granted the right to apply for an ignition interlock program at his "earliest opportunity," following his release. Though the traffic court would ultimately decide if Stevenson would be eligible for the program, the judge noted.

As a result of his conviction, Stevenson will no longer be allowed to practice law.

For Micheal Wiwchar, the sentence is not punishment enough for the man who took his daughter's life. He said he thinks the case sets a bad precedent.

He stormed out after the verdict was read.

"Three and half years doesn't seem right. I know it wasn't intent, and it wasn't murder but it's still a loss of life. There's no deterrent. That's why everyone drinks and drives. No one cares."

Stevenson had no criminal record but his driving record shows at least 12 violations between 2011 and 2017, including a three-day roadside suspension for impaired driving issued the year before the crash.

"It took my kid to die for you to sober up ... and this isn't the first time."

Michalyshyn said he was satisfied that Stevenson was remorseful and pleaded guilty to his crime "in a timely manner."

"He was solely the author of a horrible situation that was entirely preventable," Michalyshyn said of Stevenson in handing down his sentence, which followed the guidance of a joint submission from the Crown and defence lawyers.

"The presence of Stevenson's guilty plea is the most important mitigating factor ... It's his guilty plea and his remorse that helps justify the joint submission."

'I took her life'

Stevenson, who formerly worked with Dentons LLP in Edmonton, had initially been charged with impaired driving causing death, having a blood-alcohol level over 80 mg causing death and hit and run causing death.

His lawyer said Stevenson was in crisis at the time of the crash. His wife was being treated for Stage 4 cancer and he was using alcohol to cope.

While addressing the court Wednesday, Stevenson said he felt deep remorse.

"I would like to take full responsibility," Stevenson said. "I've had time to look on social media and spent many hours looking at pictures at Chloe and reading about her and the hardship I've caused.

"She was a 16-year-old, young girl who deserved a future … I took her life."

Stevenson said the experience has inspired him to find and maintain his sobriety, to help others struggling with addiction and to be a better father to his three children.

He said he tries to honour Wiwchar's memory by being a better person.

"You're not necessarily defined by what you've done but how you deal with it and I've chose to deal with this by staying sober and trying to be a better person one day at a time," Stevenson said, his eyes red and his voice breaking. "I think of Chloe every single day.

"I'm not going to hide from it. I did this and it's a horrible thing."

2018 collision on Kingsway

According to an agreed statement of facts, Wiwchar was crossing Kingsway near Tower Road when she was struck by a pickup truck around 11 p.m. on April 15, 2018.

She was in a marked crosswalk with its amber lights flashing.

Dentons LLP
Dentons LLP

The force of the impact threw Wiwchar into the air. She hit the centre median and slid more than 25 metres. She suffered multiple blunt-force injuries and died in hospital less than an hour later.

An off-duty officer who had stopped his vehicle for Wiwchar when she was in the crosswalk followed the pickup truck, providing information to 911 dispatch.

Several police cars and a police helicopter canvassed the area and Stevenson was eventually arrested in an alley in the area of 107th Avenue and 103rd Street.

Stevenson provided two breath samples. The lowest reading was for 170 milligrams of alcohol in 100 ml of blood. According to reconstruction of the collision, Stevenson was travelling between 69 and 83 km/h at the time of impact.

'I still can't imagine my future'

More than a dozen victim impact statements were submitted to the court on Wednesday.

Wiwchar's mother, Holly Lucier, stood before the court sobbing as she read hers to the judge.

Lucier said her daughter's death handed her a life sentence of anguish.

She said the pain of losing Chloe will follow her until her last breath. The pain she has endured, she said, could only be measured on her death bed.

"I still can't imagine my future, my life without my daughter.

"I can't speak to the horror, I can't speak to the levels of broken I have yet to live."

In court Wednesday, Lucier recalled the night of the crash: the call from an emergency room doctor telling her that Chloe had died. Telling Chloe's father, who was driving past the crash scene as he received the news. Seeing Chloe's sheet-covered body and reaching out to touch the blood on the back of her hair.

"Shane Stevenson hit her with his truck and abandoned her like garbage."

"She didn't have to die. Her death was 100 per cent preventable. ... If only the defendant had not been so reckless."

Lucier said her life now feels like that of a stranger. She suffers from mental illness, is unable to work and relies on medication to function. She often wakes in the night to weep, hoping that by allocating this time for sorrow she might be able to function in the morning.

Wallis Snowdon/CBC
Wallis Snowdon/CBC

Every day is torture, she said.

"I live a silent scream," she said. "I lost all of me when I lost her. My daughter was my whole world."

Six months after the crash, Lucier found out she was pregnant. She was so stressed from her grief and began suffering complications so severe, her doctors recommended termination.

She takes solace in her baby girl, named Violet after her firstborn's favourite colour.

Still, she remains haunted by the loss of Chloe.

In court, she confronted the defendant repeatedly, shaming him for leaving her daughter injured on the road, and for spending more than two years in the courts before pleading guilty.

"Where was he while I sat with my child's remains? You don't know what it is to see a pile of ashes in front of you, knowing this was your child," she said.

"The collision that killed my daughter and decimated our lives was not an accident. Drunk driving is not an accident."

After the verdict was read, family members on both sides sobbed and slowly filed out of the courtroom. Wiwchar's father stormed out in anger, while Lucier and Stevenson's wife embraced for the first time.

The women had never spoken before. They whispered in hushed tones and sobbed.

Lucier said she feels guilt about by the ordeal Stevenson's children have also faced.

"His kids are living through it too and I've thought about that a lot," said Lucier.

"There were four kids on that road that night and mine was the only one that didn't walk away."