RED DEER, Alta. – A drunk driver who orphaned five children when he killed their parents in a car crash in central Alberta will finish his sentence in a halfway house.
Chad Mitchell Olsen was granted the freedom after a hearing before the Parole Board of Canada.
The family of Krista and Brad Howe say they are shocked that Olsen will probably be allowed to spend Christmas Day at home.
They say they can’t believe he only had to spend seven months in jail for the crash that killed the Red Deer couple in February 2010.
He had a blood alcohol content more than three times the legal limit when he sped through a red light at 85 kilometres an hour and hit the couple’s car with his pickup truck.
The Howes had three young children and were also guardians of two other children.
“Likely, he’ll go home for Christmas with his family,” said Sandra Green, Krista Howe’s mother. “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 children are now being raised by Krista Howe’s sister, Karla, with help from Green and her husband.
Olsen was serving a 3 1/2-year prison sentence at the federal penitentiary in Bowden, Alta. The Alberta Court of Appeal had extended the original sentence of two years and three months by another 15 months.
The Appeal Court ruled the original sentence wasn’t long enough because it didn’t take into account Olsen’s lengthy record of traffic convictions. As well, the judges said Olsen should not have been given credit for bail conditions that were not all that onerous.
He had nine previous speeding convictions and seven other traffic violations which earned him three separate driving suspensions. Olsen’s driver’s licence was suspended for five years.
“I felt the 27 months of the beginning of the sentence was a slap on the face,” said Green. “This was just another huge slap.”
Green and her family did not attend the parole hearing. She said relatives will contact the parole board to get some answers about why Olsen is returning to the community just seven months after being jailed.
Green suggested his parole eligibility should have increased to 13 months after the Appeal Court added onto his sentence.
“It’s a very big shock, primarily because we just went through the appeal process,” she said. “We are just dumbfounded by the whole process. Why even bother going through the appeal process and having it upheld if it doesn’t mean anything?”
Green understands Olsen will live in a group home, have a job and follow a curfew.
Green said Olsen has indicated he wants to apologize to the family in person for his “mistake.”
“It wasn’t a mistake,” she said. “It was a choice. He has got that wrong.”
She said she would listen to what he has to say, especially if he accepted responsibility for what happened.
“His ‘mistake’ was not recognizing he was a dangerous driver with having 15 provincial driving infractions and not paying heed to that.”