The trial for man accused of drunk driving causing death came to a sudden end Thursday morning in Charlottetown after he changed his pleas to not guilty on three of the charges against him.
Raymond Alfred Cantelo, 73, was facing six charges, including impaired driving causing death, impaired driving causing bodily harm and leaving the scene of the accident. He changed his plea to guilty on those three charges.
On Oct. 22, 2011, Cantelo was driving a van that pulled in front of a motorcycle driven by Bernard and Stacy Cheverie on Peakes Road in cental Kings County.
Stacy died at the scene and Bernard was seriously injured.
The trial was into its fourth day, but after the court heard from Cantelo’s son, who was the defence’s first witness, the lawyers for both sides met with Justice Gordon Campbell to discuss the change in plea.
Defence lawyer Brenda Picard told the court Cantelo decided to plead guilty after listening to all the evidence against him, including Bernard Cheverie’s emotional testimony.
It also came after the defence called Cantelo’s son as its first witness.
John Cantelo spent about 10 minutes on the stand where he talked about a trip he and his father took to visit Raymond’s friend Roger Nowe about a week after the accident.
Nowe testified earlier in the week that he saw Raymond on the day of the accident and offered to drive him home because he thought Raymond had been drinking.
After John’s brief testimony the court recessed with lawyers for both sides leaving to talk to Campbell. When it resumed, Picard advised the court that Raymond was changing his pleas to guilty on three charges.
The Crown stayed the remaining charges against him.
About 50 of the Cheveries’ family and friends almost filled the courtroom throughout the hearing and many of them were in tears as they left, while others shook hands with one of the investigating officers to thank him for his work on the case.
While most were quiet as they hugged each other in the hallway, at least one woman spoke out as Raymond Cantelo waited inside the courtroom.
“I hope he has a merry Christmas. Stacy won’t,” she said.
Outside the courthouse, Cheverie said the trial meant he had to relive the accident, but he told the RCMP from the beginning that if they were able to prove the case he would be happy.
“I think Stacy would be happy also,” he said.
He credited the investigating officers and Crown attorney Lisa Goulden with doing a good job on the case.
“At the end of the day they got the verdict that they wanted,” he said.
Despite the trial ending, Cheverie said it didn’t bring any closure because he is reminded of his wife every day.
“I’ve just got to live with that.”
Cheverie, who was driving the motorcycle with Stacy riding on the back, suffered serious injuries as a result of the crash, including 21 ribs that were broken or fractured. He also had both shoulders and five vertebrae dislocated.
Cheverie said he was in physiotherapy for a long time and worked with great people who called him Humpty Dumpty because they put him back together again.
“I’m still on this side of the sod so that’s all I can say. I’m just trying to put my life together and see what I can do and live my life to the fullest,” he said.
As for what will happen to Cantelo once he is sentenced, Cheverie said he wasn’t hoping for a specific penalty and he was sure his wife would be happy knowing everyone involved in proving the case did a great job.
“I’m not putting any numbers out there at all so whatever is decided is decided,” he said.
Cantelo’s conviction was the second this month for impaired driving causing death.
Last week, 49-year-old Clarence Arnold Moase was sentenced to six years in prison after the van he was driving struck and killed a cyclist. Moase had four previous convictions and Justice John Mitchell issued a lifetime driving ban in that case.
Raymond will be back in court Jan. 10 for sentencing.