One by one, Guenter Naumann’s family members told a Barrie court how a drunk driver robbed him of a happy life in retirement and them of a cherished man.
“You took the love of my life away. His name was Guenter, a man who did the right thing in this world," Rejeanne Lachapelle said in her sometimes teary address. “I lost my home because of you.”
Sigfrid Stahn, 72, had earlier been convicted by a jury of impaired driving causing death in the 2020 crash on Highway 12 in northern Simcoe County that killed Naumann, 77, of Midland.
Naumann had been an executive with a technology company in Midland and had retired 12 years before his death.
Crown attorney Sarah Sullivan argued Wednesday that Stahn’s previous impaired driving convictions in 1985 and 1989, as well as a lengthy driver’s abstract showing careless driving and fail to remain offences, warrants a lengthier sentence in the area of nine years that should be followed by a driving prohibition of 15 years.
Defence lawyer David Wilcox suggested a sentence in the penitentiary of six years.
On July 4, 2020, Naumann was out for a leisurely drive in his Mercedes convertible, heading west along Highway 12 between Frazer Lane and Gratrix Road, near Waubaushene, when he collided head-on with Stahn’s swerving Toyota pickup, which was heading eastbound.
Naumann was taken to hospital, but died several days later.
Lachapelle said Naumann gave her “28 years of happiness” and mulled out loud about his final days in the hospital after the crash. She told the court that the image of him in hospital is forever etched in her mind.
“How dare you once again to drink and drive on our roads,” she said addressing Stahn.
Hal Belfry, Naumann’s brother-in-law, said the death impacted every member of the close family and their future plans for gatherings and travelling.
The fact that someone would drive with their ability impaired by alcohol still angers them, and Belfry encouraged Ontario Superior Court of Justice Michael McKelvey to impose a severe sentence to deter others from impaired driving.
Sister-in-law Ruth Roberts still wonders why the family lost Naumann, someone she turned to for advice. Lachapelle, she said, now lives with her after losing her home.
“Guenter should be here today enjoying his retirement. Instead, he is gone,” Roberts said. “I miss Guenter and his love of life.”
In encouraging a more severe sentence, Sullivan said society continues to condemn impaired driving, yet drunk drivers continue to “wreak havoc on our roads.”
At issue in sentencing is the consequences of the event, as well as the degree Stahn’s moral blameworthiness.
“This kind of offending behaviour needs to be treated harshly because the message needs to get across,” Sullivan said. “Mr. Stahn is not someone who should be afforded the privilege of driving.
“This isn’t an individual who is currently possessing any level of insight into his offending behaviour," the Crown added.
She referred to Stahn’s pre-sentence report in which he said he had no choice but to drive that day, to which the judge replied that there was a choice.
“It reflects more than ignorance; it reflects a lack of judgment … a lack of caring of others in his community,” McKelvey said.
Wilcox said he was planning to ask for a five-year sentence, but changed his mind after hearing Wednesday’s submissions from the Crown and family.
But he drew on Stahn’s background to suggest that Stahn’s degree of moral blameworthiness should not be as high as someone who has had more advantages in life.
Wilcox said Stahn grew up in what was then a remote community of Honey Harbour, and whose influence was an alcoholic father. Stahn, he said, had just a Grade 8 education when he left school to work with his dad.
“I’m not suggesting that Mr. Stahn not receive a lengthy penitentiary sentence, it’s just that where does he fall in that range,” said Wilcox. “It really comes down to who is Mr. Stahn, what makes him tick.”
He said Stahn acknowledges he was at fault and is sorry for having caused Naumann’s death.
McKelvey is expected to impose a sentence on June 14.