If ever there’s been good reason for outrage in Red Deer, the Parole Board of Canada has provided it.
An angry young man who drove his truck into a crowd outside an Olds bar, killing an 18-year-old college student, was sentenced to life imprisonment last week. Jeffrey Leinen, 25, must serve 14 years before he can apply for parole, after taking the life of Nicholas Baier.
Another young man in a different case consumes so much alcohol that he’s three times over the legal limit, gets in his truck and speeds through a Red Deer intersection red light, killing the parents of five children. Chad Mitchell Olsen in his big truck, they in their small car, Krista, 35, and Brad Howe, 34, never had a chance. They were killed instantly.
The deaths of the Howes generated intense community reaction in Red Deer — an explosion of anger, incredible sadness, but also extraordinary kindness as so many people and groups have stepped forward to help the Howe family get through a difficult time.
Everyone knows, but still the message doesn’t get through: the Howe deaths were entirely preventable. If you drink, for God’s sakes, don’t drive!
On Friday, Chad Mitchell Olsen, 24, was granted day parole after serving just seven months of a sentence.
Olsen, from Sedalia, southeast of Stettler, had no less than nine previous speeding convictions and seven other traffic violations, resulting in three separate driving suspensions. All this and he still apparently hadn’t learned anything.
To further make a mockery of justice, after the Crown appealed, Olsen actually had his original sentence of two years and three months extended by 15 months — less than a month ago. So, it appears, he could have been released even earlier. Or the extra 15 months meant nothing — it was merely a formality, a bit of paperwork for someone.
The Parole Board of Canada’s shocking decision was like a kick in the gut for this community, especially the families of Krista and Brad Howe.
In the Olds death, Jeffrey Leinen was convicted of second-degree murder and aggravated assault. One person died.
In the Red Deer deaths, Chad Mitchell Olsen pleaded guilty to two counts of impaired driving. Two people died.
The narrow damnable vision of the parole board fails the community and, above all, fails the Howes’ children and other family members.
While Olsen’s charges weren’t as weighty as Leinen’s, the results were just as terrible and more so, as they left behind five children.
To look at a man’s immediate actions is not enough. The consequences of those actions must also be considered.
How in heavens is it possible that the parole board could not have considered the consequences of Krista and Brad Howe’s deaths?
The parole board, at the hearing on Friday at Bowden Institution, said Olsen is remorseful, has made positive changes and has his family’s support.
Olsen, who cried on Friday as he sat before the two-member parole board of Gerald Hawranik and Ian Fowler, will live in a halfway house, have a curfew and can’t drink.
So what are we to think — what kind of message has been sent to Olsen, and every other driver out there who drinks too much and cuts people down in the prime of their lives?
It’s disgusting. The healing has barely begun and now this.
The parole board’s Code of Professional Conduct states this: “It reflects the standards of conduct appropriate to officials who have responsibility for decisions that directly affect the interests and safety of the entire community, including individual offenders, victims and their respective families.”
“Likely, he’ll go home for Christmas with his family,” Sandra Green, the mother of Krista Howe, told the Advocate on the weekend. “So he’ll never spend one Christmas without the family he loves. He has no idea what that is going to be like for us who will spend the rest of our Christmases without Brad and Krista.”
The parole board must revisit their decision. Olsen should never have been granted day parole so early into his sentence.
The board’s decision has failed this community.
Red Deer member of Parliament Earl Dreeshen, are you listening?
Mary-Ann Barr is Advocate assistant city editor. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, 403-314-4332, or on Twitter @maryannbarr1.