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This article was published 30/3/2021 (293 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Gloria Lebold wishes Justin Holz had confessed to drinking and driving when the off-duty police officer killed her 23-year-old grandson in a hit-and-run in 2017 — not more than two years later when he was applying for parole.
"It would have been better," Lebold said after learning Tuesday Holz had been granted full parole last summer and served just 10 months of a 2½-year sentence for the death of her grandson, Cody Severight.
"We weren't very happy with the sentence... He was a policeman. I said during (the sentencing), 'Why didn't you stop? You left him lying there. What kind of a police officer are you?'
"Every time I looked at him he was crying like a baby."
Severight was walking across Main Street near Sutherland Avenue at about 8 p.m. Oct. 10, 2017, when Holz, travelling north at almost 80 km/hr in a 50 km/hr zone, struck Severight and propelled him into a cement container more than 16 metres away. Holz then fled the scene, and wasn't given a breathalyzer test until about three hours after the collision.
Severight was rushed to hospital, but he died a short time later. He suffered a broken neck and fractured skull.
Holz pleaded guilty in October 2019 to dangerous driving causing death and was sentenced to 2½ years in prison. Other charges, including impaired driving causing death, were stayed by the Crown as part of a plea deal.
In the spring of 2020, just months after pleading guilty, Holz told the Parole Board of Canada that he was likely drunk at the time of the hit-and-run, acknowledging he had four pints at a Winnipeg pub with other off-duty police officers before getting behind the wheel.
During the parole hearing, Holz, a 37-year-old married father of two, said he was speeding at the time so he could get home to put his children to bed, having stayed at the pub longer than he had intended because of "peer pressure".
Holz said he fled the scene because he was near a known gang bar and was wearing a golf shirt with law enforcement insignia, and that he knew there had been assaults in the area.
Lebold said she didn't know Holz had been granted parole until she was contacted by the Free Press.
"I didn't know he was out," she said. "We're happy he got jail, but 2½ years was not long for taking a person's life."
Lebold also doesn't believe Holz's reason for speeding off.
"He took off just because he was drunk," she said.
Kelly Dae Dash, a spokesperson for Correctional Service Canada, said Holz began serving his 2½-year sentence Oct. 30, 2019, which was to run until April 29, 2022.
However, Holz was granted day parole beginning April 30, 2020, followed by full parole starting Aug. 29, 2020, Dash confirmed.
Holz was terminated from the Winnipeg Police Service, and handed a three-year driving ban.
Winnipeg police Chief Danny Smyth would not comment Tuesday on the results of the parole hearing.
But at the time of the incident, Smyth said he was "very disappointed" and expected "better decision-making" by officers.
Maurice Sabourin, president of the Winnipeg Police Association, said the union did not represent Holz in the criminal matter because the incident didn't occur while he was on duty. He said the union also did not challenge his dismissal because he was convicted.
"He pled guilty," said Sabourin. "He basically agreed to the facts of the case he was driving dangerously."
But Sabourin said he doesn't believe Holz's sentence would have been any different if he had been convicted of impaired driving causing death.
"I know that he pled guilty to avoid having the family have to go through a trial," Sabourin said. "He took responsibility for his actions."
Lebold said she thinks about her grandson every day.
"We sure miss him," she said. "He would have been 27 now."
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.