Man who pleaded guilty in manslaughter drunk driving case gets 8 year sentence

by Paige Parsons

A St. Albert man who admitted to driving drunk and causing a collision in northeast Edmonton that killed a young father and injured three other people was handed an 8 year sentence Tuesday.

Michael Beverley Gress, 37, earlier pleaded guilty to driving while impaired and crashing on March 12, 2016, causing the death of Russell Guy House, 29, and serious injuries to House's brother in law, Evan Cardinal. A vehicle carrying two Grade 12 students, Kyle Yuhar and Tayler Uganecz, was also struck, injuring the teens so badly that they are still coping with their injuries.

Gress was sentenced to four 6 year concurrent sentences. One for manslaughter, and three for impaired driving causing bodily harm, plus two years more for fleeing the scene of the crash. With enhanced credit for time already served, he has six years and 300 days left to spend in custody. Once out, he will be subject to a 10 year driving prohibition.

Emotions in the courtroom ran high as provincial court Justice Laura Stevens delivered her reasons.

Stevens noted this case was one of the "saddest" she'd had before her, and that the facts of the case - including Gress's disregard for the several people who tried to stop him from driving drunk - are "appalling." She also said she rejected the idea of Gress's actions as a "mistake."

"This was an absolutely foreseeable result," Stevens said.

Court had to be adjourned when some of House's family members began sobbing loudly as Stevens recounted the details of the deadly crash. After hearing that Gress would get more than one year's worth of credit for time already served, several of House's family members began cursing and shouting.

Speaking outside the courthouse, House's relative, Calvin Bird, called the sentence a "joke."

"Closure will never come. The children, how are they going to be made to understand this?" Bird asked.

House is survived by two young sons, ages 11 and three.

Assistant chief Crown prosecutor Kim Goddard, who had argued for an 8 to 10 year sentence, said she'll be looking carefully at the judge's reasons for apportioning the sentence the way she did, but that she thinks it's a good step forward.

"I think the message still goes out to the community that the sentences are going up. We are sending a message of denunciation to the community - we're not going to tolerate this anymore," she said.

This is only the second Edmonton case where the Crown has proceeded with a manslaughter charge in connection to a drunk driving case, and Goddard said with this decision, more will come.

A number of Gress's family members also attended the decision, and issued a written statement following the hearing: "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."