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Alberta man sentenced to 7 years for 2022 impaired driving crash that killed young couple

An Alberta man who admitted to being under the influence of fentanyl and pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing the 2022 deaths of Macy Boyce and Ethan Halford has been sentenced to seven years behind bars.

Richard Bell will also receive a six-year ban on driving following the completion of his sentence.

He will be required to provide a sample of his DNA once he is in custody.

An order is also in place prohibiting his possession of any type of firearms/ammunition for life.

Justice Brandy Shaw delivered the sentence in court on Thursday after previously saying more time would be needed.

**This is a breaking news update, previous story follows**

According to an agreed statement of facts, 43-year-old Bell of Elnora was driving at speeds of nearly 200 kilometres per hour while under the influence on June 17 when his vehicle rear-ended the car Boyce and Halford were in on Highway 21, just north of Trochu, Alta.

The collision pushed the young Calgary couple’s vehicle across the centre line and into the path of an oncoming semi-trailer truck.

Boyce, 20, and Halford, 21, were pronounced dead at the scene.

Bell also pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing bodily harm to the passenger of the vehicle he was operating as well as refusing to provide a blood sample.

Thursday’s sentence hearing, scheduled for 9:30 a.m., follows a full day of court in Drumheller, Alta., where 72 victim impact statements were read by close family members and friends of Boyce and Halford.

Defence lawyer Hugh Sommerville insists alcohol played little factor in the crash, but instead it was Bell’s drug consumption that was more concerning.

He’s arguing for a sentence in the three- to seven-year range.

Crown prosecutor Ron Simenik will seek the highest possible punishment.

Boyce and Halford had been dating for three years prior to the crash and are described by loved ones as “a young couple with the promise of a bright future.”

Both are remembered for their beautiful smiles and deep love for one another.

Boyce is survived by her parents, Andrew and Corey, along with her brother, Evan.

She was a two-year member of the Calgary Police Service cadets and an advocate for animal rights.

Her family says she was an intelligent young woman looking forward to starting her fourth year at the University of Calgary, pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in international relations.

The Macy Boyce Memorial Award has since been established with the post-secondary institution to ensure her legacy and love of learning live on.

Halford is survived by his parents, Craig and Susan, and a sister, Brittany.

He is known by his family for his caring personality, calm demeanour and inspiring athleticism, having competed at the highest level for amateur wake-surfing, and for building many friendships all over the world.

He was studying his third year of civil engineering at the University of Saskatchewan, and worked in civil construction the three summers before his death.

In honour of Boyce and Halford, family members and friends launched the ME Project last year – an ongoing campaign to raise awareness of impaired driving.

‘She changed my world’

A victim impact statement read aloud in court by Boyce’s mother on Wednesday outlined the incredibly loving and unforgettable relationship she had with her daughter.

Corey MacPherson recounted the moment she was pregnant with Boyce and watching the 9/11 terrorist attacks on television.

She cried to her husband, asking why she was bringing a child into the world, and his response was, “because our child might be the one to change it.”

“Macy did change the world, as she influenced those who she connected with. She changed my world, as she gifted me with becoming her mom and having the privilege of raising her, watching her grow, learn, love and laugh,” MacPherson said.

“She will be forever 20. We won’t have new memories, new pictures, new stories ever again. It pains me how far now I have to scroll to find the most recent pictures of Macy, taken the week she was killed.”

(Supplied)

MacPherson went on to describe her extreme difficulty coping with the loss of her child, which includes her inability to sleep, extreme exhaustion and inability to work.

On the last call she had with her daughter, the evening of the crash, Boyce had spoken about how excited she was to see Halford and to spend a weekend at the cabin together for the first time in months.

“Our phone call came to a natural end, with each of us saying, ‘I love you.’ At 10 p.m. I checked my phone, saw Macy’s location and went off to bed, knowing she was about an hour or so from the cabin,” MacPherson read in court as tears streamed down her face.

“It haunts me to know that the time Macy was killed is the exact time I looked at her location, completely unaware she was dead.”

Boyce’s aunt, Erin Dueck, also spoke.

She said she missed her niece’s “goofy laugh” and “memories of us sitting on the back deck, laughing until we cried.”

Dueck also touched on the extremely profound and loving relationship Boyce had with her son.

“I feel sad for my son. My sweet autistic boy who still asks why Macy doesn’t send him weekly videos anymore. He loved her long blonde hair. He loved to see what glasses she was wearing that day,” Dueck said.

“I’m worried for my nephew, who also lost two people his age in one fell swoop. I hate seeing him mired in despair and shock. I can’t imagine how a teenager dares to imagine his future when kids just a couple years older than him can ostensibly be wiped from the earth in a few violent seconds. The senseless death of people like Macy is what destroys faith.”

‘It will forever impact my life’

Halford’s father, Craig Halford, began his victim impact statement by reading out the final texts he sent to his son.

His son and Boyce were on their way to visit him for Father’s Day weekend at his cabin, but they had yet to arrive that evening.

His texts to his son on the night of June 17, 2022, were as follows:

  • 10:43 p.m. – “Where you guys at?”;
  • 11:26 p.m. – “Want to know you’re safe, we’re leaving at 7:45 a.m.”; and
  • 1:19 a.m. – “Hey there!! Please respond.”

“I had extreme anxiety and thought the worst,” Halford said.

“I called 911 and gave them the information. They advised that there was an accident on Highway 21 and that nothing could be confirmed.”

He left his cabin to look for his son and later learned from RCMP that he was killed in a crash.

“Nobody will ever understand what I went through that night,” he said in court.

“I will never understand this, and it will forever impact my life. Everyone and I here today, as well as all of the other friends and family will never see or talk to Ethan and Macy again.

“The guilt that I have because Ethan and Macy were on their way to visit me, on Father’s Day, the guilt I have that Andrew’s (Macy’s father) Father’s Day weekend had to be ruined will forever be a reminder of that night.”

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He told court he’d always reminded his son all decisions have consequences and good decisions will lead to a more successful life.

He worries his impact statement will have little influence on the sentence Bell receives.

“Richard Bell made a conscious decision to drive dangerously, as charged. He killed our children. Two of the charges that he has pleaded guilty to have a maximum sentence of life in prison,” he said.

“The agreed statement of facts showed he was driving 197 kilometres per hour. He applied maximum braking only 1.5 seconds prior to impact. How dangerous do you have to drive to have a ‘consequence’ of the maximum sentence as prescribed by the law?”

‘Feels like I’ve lost a brother’

Kaitlin Laine is a childhood friend who grew up with Halford and reflected on the many times they spent playing games, laughing and spending holidays together at their cabin.

She has two sisters, but Ethan was the brother she never had.

“Losing Ethan feels like I’ve lost a brother, and it’s devastating beyond words,” Laine said.

“One of my biggest fears that I had before their deaths was not getting to say goodbye or say ‘I love you’ one last time to my friends or family. One of my biggest fears was literally losing someone I love without warning. That fear came true on June 17th.”

Laine said Boyce became a big part of their friend group, and losing out on birthdays, celebrations and a future wedding between the couple is an unbearable thought.

Speaking directly to Bell in the courtroom, she called his actions “selfish” and “reckless,” noting the pain he caused will never go away.

Laine spoke of her fear to drive on the highway because of impaired drivers and admits she’s scared to cross roadways.

“You (Bell) have sentenced us to a life of pain and grief remembering all that Ethan and Macy could have done and who they would have been. We have spent 691 days missing them, and we will now have to spend tens of thousands more missing them as our lives go on,” Laine said.

“Till the day I die, I will continue to live my life for Ethan Halford and Macy Boyce, and I will never stop saying their names and fighting for justice for them.”

Bell consumed alcohol, hydromorphone and fentanyl

In an agreed statement of facts, court heard Bell consumed two Twisted Tea alcoholic beverages while driving to Hanna, Alta., for groceries on June 17 in his grey Kia Forte.

Earlier that day, he had also fallen off a ladder while working, which aggravated a pre-existing back injury.

To address pain issues, he self-medicated with Tylenol 3s (with codeine) and non-prescribed doses of hydromorphone and oxycodone.

After finishing his grocery shopping, Bell then picked up two friends and began driving back to Elnora.

During the drive, Bell asked one of his passengers to crush him a dosage of hydromorphone.

Shortly after consuming what he believed to be crushed hydromorphone, Bell was advised he had actually been given a dosage of fentanyl.

Bell briefly pulled over, concerned he would be adversely affected by the opioid, which he also did not have a valid prescription for.

Nearly 200 kilometres per hour

Believing he was not adversely affected, Bell consumed some chips and a sports drink before carrying on with his drive.

His passengers described him as “groggy” and appearing to slow down a number of times.

The agreed statement of facts notes at one point, Bell swerved into the oncoming lane of traffic, narrowly avoiding a vehicle travelling southbound on Highway 21.

According to witness reports, Bell continued driving northbound on Highway 21 and at 9:55 p.m., he rear-ended a Hyundai Elantra also travelling that same direction.

Bell was driving 196 to 197 kilometres per hour and did not apply any braking until 1.5 seconds prior to the collision, which slowed his Kia to 171 kilometres per hour at the point of impact with the Hyundai.

The Hyundai, driven by Boyce with Halford as the passenger, was travelling 101 kilometres per hour on the highway with a posted speed limit of 100 kilometres per hour.

As a result of the collision, Bell’s Kia pushed the Hyundai into the southbound lane of Highway 21 and into the path of a picker truck travelling 70 kilometres per hour.

Halford was ejected from the Hyundai and died instantly, while Boyce was located deceased in the driver’s seat, still restrained by her seat belt.

Bell was observed unconscious and had to be cut out of his seatbelt to be removed from his vehicle.

One of his passengers then injected Bell with a dosage of naloxone, before he regained consciousness and was treated by paramedics on scene.

CTV News reached out to the Bell family for comment but did not hear back.

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