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‘Your bad decisions killed my Auntie’: Tearful sentencing hearing for Toronto impaired driver

Click to play video: 'The family of a woman killed by a suspended impaired driver faced the offender in court today'
The family of a woman killed by a suspended impaired driver faced the offender in court today
WATCH: The family of a woman killed by a suspended impaired driver faced the offender in court today – Nov 24, 2022

Kari Cuss remembers her Auntie Isabel as a world traveller, a hard worker, a skilled baker, an avid knitter and a devoted caregiver to her elderly mother who lived alone.

On Jan. 1, 2021, after Isabel Osborne had driven from Peterborough to visit her mother in Toronto, Osborne’s Honda CRV was struck by a Mercedes SUV that ran a red light and entered the intersection of Keele Street and Sheppard Avenue.

The Mercedes then struck a Hyundai Elantra with a family, including two young children, on board. Due to the extreme speed of the Mercedes, it continued to travel northbound, striking the centre median, flipping in the air several times and sheering off an electrical pole on Keele Street before coming to a rest on a grassy area next to the sidewalk and catching fire.

The driver, then-23-year-old Renato Horvath, was ejected as the vehicle flipped.

Both Osborne and Horvath were taken to hospital with critical injuries. The family of four managed to escape with only minor injuries.

Read more: Toronto man charged after multi-vehicle New Year’s Day crash that left 1 dead, 5 injured

Osborne, who suffered a broken pelvis, broken shoulder, several broken ribs and multiple lacerations, succumbed to her injuries on Jan. 30, 2021. The cause of death: a traumatic brain injury caused by the motor vehicle collision.

Horvath was released from hospital in late February of 2021, at which time he was charged in relation to the fatal crash. According to an agreed statement of facts read out in court, Horvath had a projected blood alcohol level at the time of the crash between 174 and 236 mg/100 ml of blood. He was released on bail with conditions.

On July 20, 2022, Horvath pleaded guilty to impaired operation causing death.

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Dangerous driving habits on the rise in Ontario: report

According to the facts, police had tried to stop the offender minutes before the crash that killed Osborne.

At approximately 11:24 a.m. on Jan. 1, 2021, a police officer conducting speed enforcement along the northbound lanes of Keele Street south of Highway 401 pointed a laser at Horvath’s 2012 Black Mercedes Benz ML 350 SUV which appeared to be speeding and registered a speed of 86 km/hour in a 50 km/hour zone.

The officer followed Horvath’s vehicle for a short distance in an attempt to stop him. As the officer’s marked scout car approached Highway 401, the officer activated his emergency equipment in an attempt to stop the speeding SUV.

At this point, the vehicle sped up and fled. The officer turned off his emergency equipment and went back to 12 division to notify his supervisor.

The Special Investigations Unit was called in to investigate whether the officer’s interaction with Horvath contributed to the collision. The SIU cleared the officer.

It was approximately 11:29 a.m. – just five minutes later – when Horvath approached the intersection of Keele Street and Sheppard Avenue travelling at 172 km/hour.

Read more: Toronto adds 25 more speed cameras to its fleet of 50, new locations released

Horvath continued to go towards the intersection despite the fact vehicle traffic was already flowing in both directions on Sheppard Avenue and the northbound light had been a solid red for six seconds. Court also heard that Horvath was a suspended driver at the time of the collision, though not driving related. He had unpaid fines.

In court, Horvath, who has sustained long-term injuries and now walks with a limp, listened carefully as Osborne’s niece Kari Cuss delivered an emotional victim impact statement on behalf of the family.

“Your bad decisions killed my Auntie Isabel. You got into a car while you were under the influence. You crashed into her car, into many cars in fact, and she suffered. For days, she lay there, her body feeling foreign and strange, she kept hoping to get better, we were praying she would recover. She did not. She died because of your bad decisions,” Cuss said through tears.

Cuss spoke about how Osborne’s 92-year-old Portugese-speaking mother who relied on Isabel for her daily needs, has now been forced to move into an assisted living facility instead of living with her daughter, as they had been talking about.

“She is sad all the time and cries for her every single day.”

“You didn’t just take a daughter that day. You took a contributing member of the community. You took a generous person who was a patron of the arts, who donated to charity, who knitted for the local hospital,” Kuss said, Horvath listening along through a Hungarian interpreter.

Read more: Driver found allegedly asleep at wheel in live Mississauga traffic: police

Assistant Crown attorney Sharna Reid told the judge that the Crown and defence are jointly asking for a sentence of five years in prison and a 10-year driving prohibition, along with a DNA order. Reid said that there are a number of mitigating factors including: the guilty plea; the fact that Horvath is relatively young – only 25 years old; he’s married and is the sole provider for three young children; and while Horvath has a criminal record, it’s unrelated.

Reid said aggravating factors include: the fact Horvath’s blood alcohol content that was between two and three times the legal limit; he was suspended from driving at the time; he sped through a busy intersection despite a red light; and the fact that Horvath was being pursued by a police officer didn’t dissuade him from continuing to drive in an erratic fashion along Keele Street.

Defence lawyer Arthur Stern told the court that his client is genuinely remorseful and has stopped drinking, and had suffered himself — spending 40 days in a coma. He then asked the judge to reserve his decision until the new year so that Horvath can spend the holidays with his family.

The judge told the court he would need time to write his reasons for sentencing and agreed that he would deliver his sentence in January.

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