A Newmarket man has pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing death for a fatal crash that claimed the life of Stuart Ellis in November 2017.
Ellis, a 28-year-old husband and father from Beeton, had just learned he was expecting a second child.
Twenty-one-year-old Tyler Nielsen listened with his head down as Crown Attorney Paul Tate read an agreed statement of facts to a courtroom packed with dozens of family and friends of Stuart Ellis and his wife Justine Ellis, police officers, and family of Nielsen’s on Thursday.
According to the statement, on the evening of Nov. 12, Nielsen spent the night at his mother and stepfather’s home in Whitby. Earlier in the day, his girlfriend had broken up with him and he was unhappy. He asked his stepfather if he could use his car but his stepfather said “no” because Nielsen was not insured.
At about 1:30 a.m., his stepfather went to bed. Over the course of the early morning hours of Nov. 13, Nielsen consumed alcohol, marijuana, lorazepam and temazapan before leaving the home and taking his stepfather’s black Honda Accord without his consent. Nielsen drove the Accord to Newmarket from Whitby.
At the time, Nielsen was on a probation order after being charged with impaired driving and convicted of careless driving. In July 2017, a court banned him from driving for a year. He was also forbidden from possessing any non-medically prescribed drugs and had to be of good behaviour.
Just before 6 a.m. on Nov. 13, as Nielsen was travelling northbound along Highway 48 south of Davis Drive in East Gwillimbury, he collided head on with Ellis’ southbound car. Ellis could not avoid the collision and was killed instantly.
According to the facts, Nielsen was travelling at a speed somewhere between 200 and 227 km/h. The airbag control module in Nielsen’s car only recorded speeds up to a maximum 200 km/h. The airbag control module recorded this speed for a full five seconds prior to the collision.
However, expert collision reconstruction analysis showed that Nielsen’s speed may have been as high as 227 km/h.
Ellis, who was driving southbound on Highway 48 on his way to work, was travelling approximately 90 km/h. As Ellis passed Davis Drive, Nielsen’s car came over the crest towards him at extreme speed on the wrong side of the road. Ellis had no time to react and was pronounced dead at the scene of the catastrophic crash.
Blood sample analysis showed that at the time of the collision, Nielsen’s blood alcohol concentration was between 44 and 99 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood. Nielsen also had THC, lorazepam and temazepam in his blood. The effects of Lorazepam include drowsiness and impaired judgement. Temazepam is to treat insomnia and it’s purpose is to put the user to sleep.
“Ultimately, the combination of speed, driving on the wrong side of the road, and impairing substances in Mr. Nielsen’s blood prove that Mr. Nielsen had a wanton and reckless disregard for the life of Stuart Ellis. His criminal negligence caused Mr. Ellis’ death,” the agreed statement of facts said.
After the guilty plea, 10 of 25 victim impact statements were read out including one from Ellis’ widow Justine Ellis.
Holding the couple’s two-year-old son Grayson, her mother Kerry Turl standing next to her with the couple’s baby boy Coby in her arms, Justine cried as she talked about the devastating effects of losing her husband while just six weeks pregnant with their unborn child.
“Stuart’s life was ripped from us years before it should have been all because of Tyler Nielsen’s deliberate actions,” Justine said through tears.
“We had so many hopes, plans and dreams for the future. All that were stolen away by Tyler Nielsen. I have to force myself out of bed to live the nightmare that is my life everyday.
“Four people a day in Canada are killed every day due to impaired driving. Please do not make Stuart just another statistic.”
She asked Justice Joseph Kenkle to impose a stiff sentence to deter others from impaired driving.
“Your honour, this change can start with you today,” Justine said.
She said her husband did not drink and was always willing to be the designated driver. In his last post on Facebook, Ellis said Stuart said he would rather be woken up at 4 a.m. by a friend asking for a ride than finding out that my friend’s been killed.
Graeme Turl, a superintendent with York Regional Police, standing next to his wife Kerry, a former OPP breathe technician, talked about how the loss of his son-in-law Stuart has impacted them.
Turl told the court, together, he and his wife have spent 40 years investigating these type of cases.
“To have to deal with this at a personal level is very difficult,” Turl explained.
“It is disheartening and frustrating as it’s obvious people are not getting the message (about impaired driving).”
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