Ex-lawyer convicted of killing Edmonton teen in drunk driving crash denied early release

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An ex-Edmonton lawyer who drove drunk and killed a teenage girl has been refused early release.

Shane Stevenson, a one-time top-flight corporate lawyer, was denied day and full parole after a Parole Board of Canada hearing Thursday.

Stevenson was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison last October for running down 16-year-old Chloe Wiwchar with his pickup while she crossed Kingsway Avenue in a marked crosswalk in 2018. Stevenson fled the scene. At the time of his arrest, his blood-alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit.

A two-member parole board panel chose to deny Stevenson early release after deliberating for 45 minutes. Panel member Janelle Jackiw credited Stevenson for his “genuine” remorse, but said his lengthy history of impaired driving and lack of progress in addressing his risk factors made him an unsuitable candidate for completing his sentence in the community.

Holly Lucier, Wiwchar’s mother, said she is grateful the parole board chose to deny early release. Her daughter would have turned 20 this month.

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“I felt that Chloe’s voice was heard today,” she said.

Chloe Wiwchar was killed after being hit by a pickup truck in a marked crosswalk at 113 Street and Kingsway around 11 p.m. on Sunday April 15, 2018.
Chloe Wiwchar was killed after being hit by a pickup truck in a marked crosswalk at 113 Street and Kingsway around 11 p.m. on Sunday April 15, 2018. Photo by Facebook

‘The rot in the foundation’

Stevenson was an energy projects lawyer with multinational law firm Dentons at the time of the April 15, 2018, crash.

Stevenson is no longer allowed to practise law. While on bail, he found work in the office of a construction company.

Stevenson appeared by video from Drumheller Institution alongside his parole officer. He told the parole board that at the time of the offence, he was a “high-functioning” alcoholic dealing with a sick wife who was given just months to live after a cancer diagnosis. Stevenson’s wife appeared as a supporter at Thursday’s hearing.

He said he has been sober and has not driven since the offence, which also netted a five-year driving prohibition.

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Stevenson said he went to the bar the night of the crash feeling “lousy.”

“I felt my wife was going to die, I didn’t think I would be able to raise my kids.” He had several pints before switching to double rum and cokes.

“So basically a big pity party, that ended with you making a conscious decision to get behind the wheel and all hell breaks loose,” parole board member Lesley Monkman asked.

Stevenson agreed, but admitted he blacked out at the bar and did not remember anything until after he was arrested.

Stevenson, who is in his early 50s, said his alcoholism stems from abuse he suffered as a child. “From the time I was 12 on, alcohol has been there,” he said, calling it “the rot in the foundation of who I am as a person.”

He attributed the drinking to anxiety, self-centredness and low-self worth. He said he found solace in constant work and people-pleasing, which was rewarded in the legal profession. “I basically needed people to tell me, ‘You did a good job, you’re a good biller, here’s a little token.’ ”

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Killing Wiwchar was his “rock bottom,” he said. At one point he referenced God, which led Monkman to interject “you’re talking about God taking control — you took a life.”

The board noted that while Stevenson had no prior criminal record, he had multiple driving infractions including drunk-driving incidents in 2009 and 2017.

“At any point in time you could have killed yourself, you could have killed your family members, you could have killed any number of innocent people,” Monkman said.

“Why wasn’t that enough for a wakeup call?”

The damage to Shane Stevenson’s truck after he struck and killed Chloe Wiwchar. Handout photo
The damage to Shane Stevenson’s truck after he struck and killed Chloe Wiwchar. Handout photo jpg

Board says remorse genuine

The board accepted that Stevenson’s remorse is genuine and that he is taking concrete steps at treatment. Stevenson told the panel he intends to “honour” Chloe’s memory by staying sober and living a “smaller life” focused on his family. 

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He noted he will miss his son’s upcoming graduation, from the same high school Wiwchar attended. 

“I’ve felt pain that I wasn’t going to be there for one of the monumental days in my son’s life,” he said, adding he quickly realized “I’ve taken every day … of Chloe’s life.”

Stevenson said his time on bail is evidence he can safely live in the community under supervision. He avoided alcohol while on release despite the financial, legal and health pressures, including a lawsuit from a former client (Monkman noted, however, that Stevenson continued some risky behaviour while on bail, including fathering a child with another woman.)

“I feel pretty comfortable that whatever life brings to me I’m going to be able to handle it if I’m doing what I’m doing,” he said.

The board disagreed. Jackiw told Stevenson he has yet to target his risk factors “in any significant way” and that his relapse prevention plan was not enough to merit early release given his history.

Lucier said someone in Stevenson’s position should have realized the destructiveness of his behaviour before it was too late.

“(He) shouldn’t have had to kill somebody in order to really commit to getting the help that will stop him from putting innocent lives at risk,” Lucier said.

jwakefield@postmedia.com

twitter.com/jonnywakefield

Fresh flowers along Kingsway Avenue where Chloe Wiwchar was hit by a vehicle on April 15, 2018.
Fresh flowers along Kingsway Avenue where Chloe Wiwchar was hit by a vehicle on April 15, 2018. Photo by Ian Kucerak Ian Kucerak /Ian Kucerak/Postmedia

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