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St. Albert man handed 8-year sentence for hit and run that killed father of 2

Click to play video: 'Man sentenced to 8 years in prison for deadly hit and run in Edmonton' Man sentenced to 8 years in prison for deadly hit and run in Edmonton
WATCH ABOVE: The man responsible for a deadly hit and run in north Edmonton last year has learned his fate. Michael Gress was given eight years in prison but as Shallima Maharaj reports, the sentence didn't satisfy the victim's family – Feb 14, 2017

A St. Albert man who was drunk and driving 147 km/h when he slammed into another car, killing the passenger, was sentenced to eight years behind bars Tuesday.

Michael Gress, 37, was also given a 10-year Canada-wide driving prohibition, which will come into effect when he is released.

Earlier this month, Gress pleaded guilty to manslaughter, three counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm and fleeing the scene of a serious accident for his part in a fatal hit-and-run collision in northeast Edmonton in March 2016.

READ MORE: St. Albert man pleads guilty to manslaughter, impaired driving for 2016 hit and run

According to the agreed statement of facts, Gress was so drunk the night of the crash he was cut off by a bartender at a north Edmonton pub. When he left the bar, staff called a cab and went outside to try to stop him from driving.

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When the cab showed up, Gress sent it away.

Gress drove to another pub where he was also cut off and asked to leave because of his “high intoxication level.” Witnesses saw him drive away so they called 911.

Soon after, Gress – who had two prior convictions for impaired driving and six prior speeding convictions – drove into the back of a Chevrolet Cavalier in the area of 167 Avenue and 59A Street. The Cavalier spun into the opposite lane, where it collided with a Mitsubishi Lancer.

Russell House, the passenger of the Cavalier and a father of two, was thrown from the vehicle and died. The driver was taken to hospital with upper-body fractures and a collapsed lung. He remained in hospital for months.

READ MORE: St. Albert man charged with manslaughter after fatal hit-and-run crash

Two others were taken to hospital, one with a fractured ankle. The other suffered a broken collarbone and spinal injury. Gress was not injured.

After the collision, Gress drove from the scene and hit a tree before colliding with a wooden fence. He then ran away on foot before eventually catching a cab home to St. Albert.

Calvin Bird, House’s uncle, called the sentence “another joke.”

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“There’s too many victims that suffer, not only from our community. It’s a major, major loss,” Bird said.

“Closure will never come. There is no healing in a loss. There’s no end, it’ll always be there. To move forward is only the next step. Closure will never happen.”

House had two young children. Bird said they have not yet been told what happened to their father.

“The younger ones are still waiting for their father to come home,” he said. “They haven’t been told about the loss. It’s too tragic for them to deal with. Any tragedy is hard to deal with and they’re too young to deal with that.”

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Russell House pictured with his kids, Jaysel (now 11) and Jadis (now 3). Supplied to Global News
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Russell House's family was in the courtroom Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017 when Michael Gress, of St. Albert, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in connection with a fatal hit and run that killed House in March 2016. Supplied to Global News
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Russell House's family was in the courtroom Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017 when Michael Gress, of St. Albert, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in connection with a fatal hit and run that killed House in March 2016. Supplied to Global News
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Russell House's family was in the courtroom Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017 when Michael Gress, of St. Albert, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in connection with a fatal hit and run that killed House in March 2016. Supplied to Global News
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Russell House's family was in the courtroom Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017 when Michael Gress, of St. Albert, pleaded guilty to manslaughter in connection with a fatal hit and run that killed House in March 2016. Supplied to Global News

The Crown was seeking a sentence of eight to 10 years, while the defence was seeking seven to eight years.

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The assistant chief crown prosecutor in the case said while the sentence was on the low end of what they were seeking, it does send a message of denunciation.

“We’re not going to tolerate this anymore,” Kim Goddard said. “This is a case, one of the only two cases in Edmonton, where we’ve proceeded with charges of manslaughter and I anticipate that we’ll be looking at those type of charges further down the line.

“We build upon prior cases so I can certainly appreciate the family being upset and frustrated with these cases and the sentence. But ultimately I think it’s a step in the right direction and we can, of course, build on this sentence and build on this case down the road for future sentences.”

Bird said his nephew loved hockey and was heavily involved in coaching the youth in his community. An upcoming memorial hockey tournament is planned in his honour.

Michael Gress’s family issued the following statement:

“It’s a tragic event for all parties involved. Our heart goes out to the families. Michael is remorseful for the events that took place that night and we will support and stand by him, and will help him in his recovery.”

With credit for 430 days served, Gress has 6.8 years left on his sentence.

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