Five years for Sherwood Park drunk driver who killed senior couple

In addition to five years in prison, Justice Shaina Leonard imposed a seven-year driving prohibition

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A former high school quarterback from Sherwood Park has been sentenced to five years in prison for killing a senior couple while drunk driving.

Justice Shaina Leonard passed the sentence Monday on Taylor Yaremchuk for crashing his car into Jim and Annie Macdonald while twice the legal limit.

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Leonard expressed frustration about the prevalence of drunk driving despite a “decades long” public education campaign on the dangers of being impaired behind the wheel.

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“A strong message must be sent to denounce and deter such conduct,” she said.

Yaremchuk, 30, killed the Macdonalds Aug. 14, 2022, after drinking at a Sherwood Park golf course. He drove his Kia Optima nine kilometres on Highway 628, at one point veering “completely into oncoming traffic,” Leonard said.

He struck the Macdonalds on their motorcycle near the intersection of Range Road 231.

Crown prosecutors asked Yaremchuk be sentenced to five years in prison, while the defence sought three to five. A one-time starting quarterback for Bev Facey High School and the Edmonton Wildcats, Yaremchuk has been in custody since his sentencing hearing April 19.

Leonard credited Yaremchuk for his guilty plea to two counts of impaired driving causing death. She accepted he feels genuine remorse for what he did.

“He has pleaded guilty, taken responsibility, acknowledged a custodial sentence (jail) is appropriate and apologized in open court,” she noted.  

Court heard Yaremchuk has not touched alcohol since the crash and that he is father to a newborn. A supporter told court Yaremchuk has “found purpose” in his life since the birth of his child. He has a job waiting for him in B.C. after his release.

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Leonard nevertheless found several aggravating factors arguing for a longer sentence, including the fact two people were killed, as well as Yaremchuk’s history of dangerous driving.

She noted Yaremchuk’s overall “disregard for the laws governing the operation of a motor vehicle in Alberta,” included multiple speeding and distracted driving infractions, some of which led to licence suspensions.

In addition to five years in prison, Leonard imposed a seven-year driving prohibition. She declined to levy $55,000 restitution order sought by the Crown, saying such issues are better handled in civil court.

Breigh Cohen was among those who gave a victim impact statement during last month’s sentencing, describing her family’s agony at the loss of her parents. Jim, 68, worked at MacEwan University while Annie, 63, was a longtime civil servant. 

“It’s a hard day,” she said outside court Monday. “Nothing’s going to bring them back. We feel that the justice heard us, and that it’s sending a message.”

She declined to say whether she thinks the five-year sentence is sufficient.

“I think our parents were champions for the underdog in our city, and I think it’s a huge loss for our city and certainly a bigger loss for our family,” she said. “Nothing’s going to bring them back, but I hope people remember their big hearts and their kindness.”

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