'It's devastating': Impaired driver sentenced to 5 years for killing a father of two
Published Thursday, March 21, 2019 7:42PM EDT Last Updated Friday, March 22, 2019 12:42PM EDT
“I’m still going home to no husband,” Justine Ellis says through tears. “It’s just another day for me, trying to struggle through.”
Ellis walks out of a Newmarket courthouse on Thursday after hearing the sentence for the man who killed her husband.
She was six weeks pregnant when she got a frantic phone call at work from her mother-in-law. The police were at her front door. Her husband, Stuart Ellis, was just 28-years-old when an impaired driver hit his car head-on in the early morning hours on November 13, 2017.
“My kids don’t have their dad. None of this brings him back, so there’s no happy ending in this,” she says.
Tyler Nielsen got behind the wheel of his step-father’s car after having consumed alcohol, marijuana, lorazepam and temazepam and left his mother’s house in Whitby.
Nielsen was speeding over 200km/hr, veering into the wrong side of the road along Highway 48 in East Gwillimbury at the same time Stuart Ellis was on his way to work.
As Stuart’s car passed Davis Drive his vehicle slammed into Nielsen’s.
Ellis never had time to react to the oncoming car.
He died at the scene.
Nielsen wasn’t supposed to be driving. He was under probation after being previously charged with impaired driving. He was convicted in that case with careless driving.
“This is not Tyler’s first offence, so obviously getting off easy the first time didn’t make an impact,” says Kerry Turl, Justine’s mother. Turl is also a former OPP officer and breathalyzer technician. “We need to come down hard on first offenders. Then maybe people won’t be killed, and maybe less people will drive impaired.”
The 21-year-old man pleaded guilty to criminal negligence causing Ellis’ death in January.
His lawyer asked the judge to take mercy on his client, describing Nielsen as a troubled young man with a long, painful history of depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. Defence lawyer Sheldon Wisener told the court Nielsen has tried to take his own life five times in the past.
“This is a kid who was spiralling for a long time,” says Wisener. “He wasn’t able to cope with the challenges of life and turned to self-medicating. It’s sad, and the events were terrible.”
Nielsen choked back tears in the courtroom, and while looking directly at the Ellis family, apologized for his actions.
"I am so sorry. The worst part about this whole accident is that I took a father away from his children. I will never be able to forget that. I am deeply sorry for my actions, and I am ready to accept the court’s punishment.”
Nielsen was sentenced to five years behind bars in federal prison. He was also banned from driving for eight years after he gets out.
Reacting to the sentence handed down today, Justine says more needs to be done. “It’s pretty devastating to hear that your husband’s life is only worth five years. Something needs to change. I was hoping it would start here, but it’s not. I’ll keep trying to fight, but I don’t know.”
Stuart Ellis has two young boys, one of whom he never met, but who carries his name: Coby Stuart Ellis.
“He’s the spitting image of his dad,” says Justine. “Which is nice, but hard at the same time.”