On Monday, the 41-year-old Winnipeg man and professional truck driver was handed a three-year sentence in what was described by the judge as one of the toughest decisions to deliver in decades.
In August, sentencing arguments at Melfort Court of Queen’s Bench centered around whether Lavoie was being reckless the day of the collision or was just inattentive and sleep deprived.
The Crown argued for a six-year sentence, saying even if Lavoie wasn’t impaired by alcohol at the time, there were no excuses for what he did.
His defence lawyer asked for two years plus a day, defending Lavoie’s character and the fact that he was later diagnosed with sleep apnea.
As part of Judge Mona Dovell’s 24-page decision on Monday, both aggravating and mitigating factors in the case were highlighted and the three years Lavoie received was at the higher end of the range than the majority of cases submitted by the Crown.
“It’s important that members of the public feel safe in construction zones and highways in general and driving is a privilege not a right,” Crown prosecutor Tyla Olenchuk said outside the courthouse.
The case also proves how unintentional actions can have catastrophic consequences for everyone involved and their loved ones left behind.
On May 3, 2015, the semi-truck Lavoie was driving became a deadly weapon approximately eight kilometres south of Spalding.
At the time, the three teens were sitting in a vehicle stopped at a construction zone and it’s believed Lavoie fell asleep or was on “autopilot” when his semi-truck rear-ended them going at least 84 kilometres an hour.
“I don’t think anybody could experience a file like this and say that it’s not difficult especially when you meet with the families repeatedly and you can feel their pain,” said Olenchuk.
Carter Stevenson, 17, Kristian Skalicky, 15 and Justin Gaja, 14 all died that day on their way home from a football camp.
Lavoie received three years for each victim and one year for seriously injuring a flag person on scene – time to be served concurrently.
The judge also noted this in her decision, “in reality, Norman Lavoie has sentenced himself to a ‘life sentence.’ There is nothing that this court can do that would surpass the penalty Mr. Lavoie has already handed down himself.”
Tim Nolin, who appeared as Lavoie’s counsel on behalf of Michael Nolin, provided a statement outside of court.
“Justice Dovell also acknowledges that this is etched into his mind forever so it’s not a very happy day for Mr. Lavoie either.”
Lavoie also knows precisely what his victims’ families are going through. His mother and grandmother were also killed in a collision involving a semi decades earlier.
As for where Lavoie will serve his time, that answer is still up in the air.
In a bit of an unusual move during sentencing arguments even defence counsel was pushing for penitentiary time for Lavoie, so he could then apply to be transferred to a federal institution just outside of Winnipeg.
The decision will ultimately be made by Correctional Services Canada but, according to Nolin, is unlikely to be denied as it will aid in Lavoie’s rehabilitation.