As they prepare to mark a full year without him, Cody Severight's family wanted to finally face the former police officer accused in his death.
They didn't get the chance to see the officer for the first time Monday, when the criminal case involving Justin Holz was back on the court docket. Neither Holz nor his defence lawyer appeared in court in person. A representative from the law firm indicated the case is headed for a preliminary inquiry in March.
Severight, 23, died after being hit by a car as he was crossing Main Street at Sutherland Avenue near the Sutherland Hotel around 8 p.m. Oct. 10, 2017. The driver fled the scene, and Holz, a 34-year-old, eight-year member of the Winnipeg Police Service, was arrested shortly afterward. Before the crash, the Free Press previously reported, Holz was with up to six colleagues drinking at The Pint on Garry Street after they all got off duty around 4:30 p.m. that day.
Severight's grandmother, Gloria Lebold, has been at each one of Holz's court dates, trying to keep her grandson's memory alive.
"It's pretty hard on us, like I get so stressed out every time there's a court date coming up," she said Monday.
"It brings a lot of bad memories of what happened. We don't even like travelling by Sutherland Hotel, where this accident happened; that's how much it bothers us."
The family is organizing a vigil to be held Oct. 10 in memory of Severight, who they remember as a generous, funny young man with a corny sense of humour. His grandmother said Severight was about to start school again and was in the process of turning his life around when he died.
"His voice is definitely going to be heard. He's not just another dead Indian," said Cody's ex-girlfriend, Jasmine Kithithee.
Severight's aunt, Nancy Gabriel, said no one from the police service has reached out to the family in the months since Severight's death.
"Nobody has acknowledged us at all.... to say sorry he would have to admit that he was wrong," she said of Holz.
Holz is charged with several criminal offences, including impaired driving causing death, failing to stop at the scene of a fatal accident and dangerous driving causing death and driving with a blood alcohol level over 80.
He was initially charged with two offences — impaired driving causing death and failing to stop at the scene of an accident — but additional charges were laid last November after Manitoba's Independent Investigation Unit looked into the case. The case is still active with the IIU as the court process continues, but a spokeswoman said Monday no further charges are expected to be laid.
As the Free Press first reported Aug. 10, Holz no longer works for the police service. A spokesman said he couldn't comment on internal human resources matters when asked whether Holz quit or was fired, or when his employment ended.
Two other Winnipeg Police Service officers were under investigation after police chief Danny Smyth learned breath samples weren't taken from Holz until three to four hours after arresting officers formed the opinion Holz was impaired. At a news conference last fall, Smyth said he contacted the IIU to investigate the other two officers. In December, the IIU announced it would not be recommending criminal charges against those officers.
Holz was one of five Winnipeg Police Service officers to be charged with impaired driving last year. Three have dealt with their charges in court. One was acquitted, one pleaded guilty and was granted a curative discharge and a third pleaded guilty and was fined $1,300.
A four-day provincial court preliminary inquiry is set to begin for Holz on March 4, 2019. It will determine whether the case should be set for trial in the Court of Queen's Bench.
Katie May reports on courts, crime and justice for the Free Press.