No day parole for cement truck driver who killed 5 people
Published Thursday, October 20, 2011 7:08AM EDT
BOWDEN, Alta. - A man convicted of killing five people when he smashed his cement truck into the back of a car has been denied day parole despite a tearful apology to the families of the victims.
The National Parole Board did grant Daniel Tschetter unescorted temporary absences so he can spend time with his family. He will be allowed a 24-hour absence the first month, 48 hours the second month and three days a month after that.
The board's decision came after a hearing Wednesday at Bowden Institution, 130 kilometres north of Calgary, where Tschetter has been serving time for manslaughter.
"This is a story with no happy ending for anyone," said one of the two parole board members who heard Tschetter's application.
"This is not an easy decision for us," he said. "I have no doubt the remorse you showed today was sincere, but we feel there are issues you need to work on."
It wasn't clear during the hearing what Tschetter's personal issues are, although he referred several times to his impatience and inability to focus.
The board members outlined his erratic driving, but didn't appear to get at the root cause of what was bothering Tschetter. It was noted that he hasn't had any real counselling other than what he received after the accident for coping with grief. The board said it's hoped he'll be able to prove himself in the community on his temporary leaves and get the kind of help he needs.
Tschetter, 54, was speeding and driving erratically when his truck crushed a passenger car stopped at a red light in south Calgary in December 2007. Three children and two adults inside the car died on impact.
Pieces of the vehicle were scattered for hundreds of metres along Macleod Trail, a busy north-south thoroughfare that runs through Calgary
"I knew they couldn't be alive," Tschetter told the board.
"I went in the truck and phoned my boss. I freaked. I saw the car. I saw the disaster and went into shock."
Sixteen-month-old Zachary Morrison; his mother, Melaina Hovdebo, 33; Chris Gautreau, 41; and Gautreau's two daughters, Alexia, 9, and Kiarra, 6, were killed in the crash.
One of the parole board members suggested that Tschetter seemed to have little care for those around him when he would be stressed and driving on the highway, and didn't make any effort to help the victims after the crash.
"You have a sense of entitlement," he said. "It looks pretty callous and cold to be honest with you."
Tschetter's wife and two children attended the parole board hearing, as did the father, aunt and uncle of the youngest victim, Zachary.
"Daniel Tschetter's 'bad day' has turned into a lifetime of bad days for me. I can tell you this has not gotten any easier," said Tracey Grieder, Zachary's aunt.
Zachary's father, Lee Morrison, said he goes to the cemetery almost every day to talk to his son.
"Each day is a struggle," he said wiping away tears with a tissue.
"To wake up each day without him is painful. Daniel Tschetter is not the victim of this."
Tschetter addressed the family just before the board went to make its decision.
"I sincerely apologize for the grief, hell and agony -- and all the pain I have inflicted," Tschetter said. "It's unforgettable, but with God's help we can move on."
Morrison said he was glad to hear the words but wasn't sure about the sincerity.
"I did believe his words today, and for the first time there's some heart to the man, who realizes the horror he's created for his family and for us," he told reporters after the hearing.
"Forgiveness? How do you forgive that? I don't know. I'm not at that place. I wish I could be. It would make my night terrors and my days easier.
Witnesses at Tschetter's trial two years ago said he had been speeding along a Calgary highway for 20 kilometres before entering the city. They said his massive truck swerved, abruptly switched lanes and sometimes passed vehicles on the shoulder. It eventually slammed nearly at full speed into the car.
Court heard that Tschetter then got out of his truck and climbed a ladder to toss a vodka bottle into the back.
Judge Bruce Fraser sent him to prison for 5 1/2 years for manslaughter and obstruction of justice. Tschetter is also banned from ever driving a commercial vehicle again and barred from driving his own vehicle for five years after he is released.
Tschetter can reapply for day parole in six months but a new hearing wouldn't be scheduled until five months after the application.
He is scheduled for statutory release in June 2013.