EDMONTON 鈥?Tensions were high as the man charged in a crash that took the life of a two-year-old boy in May 2013 spoke at his sentencing hearing Wednesday.
Richard Suter recalled the moment he learned the toddler had died.
“It just sunk me,” he said. “I felt sick. I had done a terrible thing and I just felt so bloody awful.”
The 65-year-old said he was in a jail cell when he heard the news.
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“I was full of remorse,” said Suter. “I was feeling devastated by what I had done.”
Suter, 65,聽was charged with impaired driving causing death, three counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm and failing to provide聽a breath sample where death聽occurred. The impaired driving charges are expected to be withdrawn at the end of this week鈥檚 sentencing hearing. He pleaded guilty to failing聽to provide a breath sample.
Wednesday morning Suter apologized to the Mounsef family. He said he wanted to contact them earlier, but his lawyer advised against it.
Before he could read his statement in court, Geo’s mother, Sage Morin, left the room.
“I will always mourn the loss of your son,” said Suter. “I have done a great harm to your family and will always be terribly sorry for what I did that night. My remorse is true and heartfelt. I was not impaired. I made a terrible driving error that had a tragic outcome.
“I’m sorry. Please forgive me. This will affect me for the rest of my life.”
Morin spoke to Global News outside the law courts. She explained why she didn’t want to hear Suter’s apology.
“His apology to me means nothing. It’s empty words. So I wasn’t interested in subjecting myself to that. I heard enough this morning,” she said.
“To sit in court and listen to the constant denial, the constant lack of remorse, lack of responsibility, accountability, and then to have that peppered with a short little… apology. I couldn’t even stomach it,” Morin said.
“I got up and I left the courtroom. I couldn’t stand to hear it.
“There’s no emotion, there’s no empathy, and I don’t know how that can happen after the day that we had here yesterday, how there can be no feelings.”
Geo Mounsef’s mother Sage Morin outside court on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. Kendra Slugoski, Global News
Geo Mounsef’s mother Sage Morin outside court on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015.
Kendra Slugoski, Global News
Suter also apologized to the waitress who was injured in the crash.
He told the court his wife had told him she wanted a divorce when he mistakenly hit the gas pedal instead of the brake. He said the mood in the SUV was tense and he was shocked. He said his wife screamed at him that they were rolling forward.
Two-year-old Geo Mounsef was having dinner with his parents and baby brother on the patio of Ric’s Grill when the SUV crashed through the glass partition and he was trapped under the vehicle.
Video showed Suter parked in front of Ric鈥檚 Grill at 142 Street and 23 Avenue, before he accelerated and then reversed several metres.
Suter told court that after he backed up, someone pulled him out of the SUV and threw him to the ground where he was assaulted.
“They (bystanders) were looking at me like I was a monster and I guess I can’t blame them.”
Police originally charged Suter with impaired driving causing聽death, as witnesses said he smelled of alcohol, was stumbling and聽slurring his words.
READ MORE:聽Edmonton man charged after patio collision kills young boy
Court heard other witnesses believed he was sober.
鈥淢r. Suter was not drunk,鈥?claimed Dino Bottos, Suter鈥檚 lawyer. 鈥淗e had only a few drinks that day and only a drink about an hour before the incident, but he was not impaired by alcohol.鈥?/p>
Suter said Wednesday he called a legal aid聽lawyer who steered聽him not to take a breathalyzer test. Suter said the lawyer didn’t explain how serious it was to refuse a breath test.
Wednesday afternoon, that lawyer was called to testify. Jason McKen from Fort McMurray, confirmed he told Suter not to do a breath test. McKen said he didn’t know about the law passed in 2008 – refusing a breathalyzer where death occurred – that carried a maximum sentence of life in prison.
“I would have given him different legal advice and that advice would be to blow,” said McKen.
The 65-year-old said, though the聽lawyer told him not to say anything, he did an interview with a detective anyway.
“I was praying about the little boy who had died. I was praying for his聽family.”
Suter told court he and his wife were hit by a drunk driver in 1976. The driver ran a red light and they were both in intensive care, he said. At that point, Suter said he vowed he would never drink and drive.
“We learned a lesson in the accident we had,” he said. “I was a very careful driver. I would never drink and drive.”
Suter said the 1976 crash left his left leg badly injured. After many surgeries, it was still shorter than the other.
READ MORE: ‘This is your cross to bear’: Mother of toddler killed on Edmonton patio聽
On Tuesday, Geo鈥檚 mother brought聽a framed photo of her son, and read聽her victim impact statement.聽She told the court about a little boy who loved books and dinosaurs.
Sage Morin told Suter: “In the end, all I ask of you is to look at yourself.
鈥淭hink of the example you set for your children, your grandchildren鈥ou will always know the truth,鈥?said Morin.
鈥淭his is your cross to bear.鈥?/p>
Seventeen victim impact statements were read Tuesday morning. Another six were聽given Tuesday afternoon.
Cross examination will take place Wednesday afternoon.
With files from