Chad Olsen granted full parole with special conditions
A drunk driver who killed the Red Deer parents of five children in February 2010 was granted full parole on Wednesday.
Chad Mitchell Olsen, 25, formerly of Sedalia, was granted full parole after a 90-minute Parole Board of Canada hearing was held at the downtown Red Deer parole office.
He was granted day parole last December after serving a seven-month term in federal prison for the deaths of Brad and Krista Howe, both in their mid 30s, early on Feb. 7, 2010.
The two-member parole board panel ruled that Olsen, who has been living at a halfway house in Red Deer, did not pose undue risk to the public. Full parole would help him ease back into full integration with society as well.
The parole board issued two special conditions — that he abstain from alcohol and that he attend psychological counselling, which he had been doing until recently.
A parole officer will continue to monitor Olsen until his sentence formally ends on Oct. 26, 2014.
Outside the parole board office, Sandra Green, the mother of Krista Howe, said she anticipated Olsen would receive full parole.
“I am not mad at him, but angry at the legal system,” said Green.
Near the end of the hearing, Olsen wiped tears from his eyes as he said sorry to Sandra Green “for all the suffering that I have caused her and her family.”
Green said that Olsen shed tears during his sentencing, so seeing that kind of emotion was nothing new to her.
If Olsen was earnest and sincere in speaking about his commitments 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, Green said.
“Maybe something good will come out of his irresponsible, selfish, arrogant behaviour and if his attitude has changed, that’s good,” said Green.
Green added she would welcome Olsen to join her in fighting for increased drinking and driving penalties.
“We can’t change what he did,” said Green. “It’s the way it’s going to be, but it might not have to be that way for all those other Canadians who are joining our ranks, those other families who are losing their kids.”
Green read a victim impact statement to the parole board, saying how much her daughter and son-in-law were devoted to their five children, their engineering jobs, their church and other community activities. The children, aged seven to 17, are now being looked after by Krista Howe’s sister, Karla Green.
“They didn’t have the chance to fulfil their lifelong dreams and yet Chad still has that option,” said Green. “A stranger to us made a final choice. He gets seven months and we get life with no chance for appeal.”
Olsen pleaded guilty in April 2011 to two counts of impaired driving causing death. His blood alcohol level was nearly three times the legal limit when he sped through a red light in his pickup truck and hit the Howes’ car at about 2 a.m.
Olsen was originally given a sentence of two years and three months. The Crown appealed and Olsen’s jail term was lengthened to three-and-a-half years last October. Two months later, on Dec. 16, Olsen was granted day parole and allowed to leave Bowden Institution.
The sentence also included a five-year driving ban once Olsen was released from prison.
Olsen’s parole officer remarked on his positive progress since leaving jail. Olsen completed a National Substance Abuse Program within jail, and he is almost finished a “maintenance program” in the community.
The parole officer said that she has no suspicions at all that Olsen has had any alcohol.
The parole officer said that Olsen has good family support and his fiance, a non-drinker, is there for him. Olsen will live at his fiance’s home in Red Deer, now that he’s received full parole. He has a full-time job, but hopes to go back to school, perhaps to finish his petroleum engineering program at SAIT in Calgary.
Olsen told the parole board that he thinks about what he did on Feb. 7, 2010, every day and about the impact it made on the Howe family.
He said that he loved adrenalin sports when he was younger and then he started speeding on the road.
In six years of driving, he had acquired 16 driving infractions.
Drinking became a problem when he started college.
Olsen said he would take a cab home when he was in town, but when he was back home in the rural area, he and his friends thought it was OK to drink and drive home. Sedalia is southeast of Stettler.
On the night that the Howes died, Olsen said he had two beer and two double rum drinks at a friend’s house. He then went to a bar with a friend, but didn’t have anything to drink there because he left shortly after.
Olsen said he felt exhausted and tired as he drove down 30th Avenue. As the Howes prepared to turn left from Ironstone Drive onto 30th Avenue, they were hit by Olsen’s southbound pickup truck.
After the crash, Olsen said someone approached his vehicle to find out if he was OK.
“I am fine, just go check on them,” Olsen recalled saying.
Olsen said he hasn’t driven since Feb. 7, 2010, nor has he had a drink. He said that perhaps he’ll be able to drive again in four or five years’ time. Olsen said.
“I have done something that’s affected the community and the family quite drastically and I should deal with that,” Olsen said.
Olsen’s mother said that it was a “huge step” for him to acknowledge he is an alcoholic.
Olsen said he is waiting to hear back from his insurance company and legal counsel in regards to a civil lawsuit of $3.5 million issued by the children of the Howes.
When the parole board asked how he would honour the memory of the victims, Olsen paused and then said, “Just help out in any way I can, give back to the community like they (the Howes) did and help the family.”
“How about staying sober for the rest of your life?” asked the parole board member.
“For sure,” replied Olsen.