Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Hardest Case: Judge Says He Struggled with Sentence for Driver Who Killed Teens

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Hardest Case: Judge Says He Struggled with Sentence for Driver Who Killed Teens

Article excerpt

3 years for crash that killed football players


GRANDE PRAIRIE, Alta. - An Alberta judge choked back tears as he told a packed courtroom how he struggled to decide a just punishment for a driver who caused a crash that killed four high school football players.

A fifth player was pulled from the wreckage and survived, but suffered brain injuries and had to relearn to walk and talk.

Court of Queen's Bench Justice William Tilleman said Wednesday the case of Brenden Holubowich is the toughest he's ever had to face.

The boys simply didn't have to die, he said.

"Drinking and driving is sad, senseless, stupid and selfish," Tilleman said, even though impaired driving was not a charge to which Holubowich pleaded guilty.

In the end, Tilleman sentenced Holubowich to three years in prison and banned him from driving for three years when he is released.

It was the same sentence recommended by Crown and defence lawyers after Holubowich stood up Tuesday and pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing death and dangerous driving causing bodily harm.

Tilleman didn't automatically approve the plea bargain. Instead, he told the court he needed to sleep on it.

Holubowich, 23, had been facing 16 charges, including impaired driving causing death and failing to remain at the scene of an accident.

His pickup truck collided with a car carrying five members of the Warriors football team from Grande Prairie Composite High School in October 2011.

Walter Borden-Wilkins and Tanner Hildebrand, both 15, and Matthew Deller and Vince Stover, both 16, were killed. Zach Judd, now 17, was pulled from the wreckage and spent 11 days in a coma.

He told court during the sentencing hearing that he struggles with anger and depression. And as the only teen to survive the crash, he often thinks of suicide.

The judge said he will never forget the emotional victim impact statements submitted in court by the boys' parents. They described how they will miss watching their sons become men, get married and raise babies.

He noted one statement from Darren Davidson, Walter's step-father, who wrote that he holds no contempt for Holubowich and hopes that everyone will be able to forgive him.

Tilleman said he also feels for Holubowich and his family. He said the young man is not the typical criminal he sees in court. He had no record, enjoyed a perfect driving history and has studied hard as an apprentice heavy-duty mechanic.

The judge also suggested Holubowich appeared genuine when he stood in court and apologized to the families.

"I could see in his face -- if not in his words -- his acceptance for what happened and not blaming anyone else."

Tilleman said the gravity of the offence had him considering a longer period behind bars. …

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