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Driver sentenced in 2014 death of New Tecumseth worker

Marcello Fracassi has been sentenced to jail time, as well as a driving ban
Geoff Gaston, pictured here with his wife Tanya, was struck and killed while painting parking lines in downtown Alliston on June 20, 2014. Photo courtesy of Tanya Gaston

A judge sentenced Marcello Fracassi to 6 years in jail and imposed a 7-year driving ban for impaired driving causing the death of New Tecumseth worker Geoff Gaston in 2014.

"He is a classic example of a good person who committed a serious offence with devastating consequences," said Justice Cary Boswell. "He did not mean to kill anyone but he meant to drink and he meant to drive."

Fracassi, 34, was convicted at his judge alone trial on Nov. 1 of impaired driving causing death and impaired driving causing bodily harm.

Gaston, 41, a married father of two and a volunteer firefighter, was painting traffic lines overnight when he was struck and killed on Victoria Street in Alliston by a drunk Fracassi who had been out to a rock concert and a strip club with friends.

Fracassi's pickup truck also clipped Gaston's co-worker who suffered life-altering injuries.

Court heard Fracassi's blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit three hours after the crash. 

"I thought I was going to be sick," said Gaston's widow Tanya when she heard the sentence, which she feels in no way reflects the crime.   

"My husband was 41. His life was certainly worth more than that," she said wiping away tears outside the courthouse in the rain, flanked by her two sons Josh and Tim. 

"I'm not surprised but I am disappointed," she said, calling for the maximum of life. "I understand the judge's position you're not really sending a message to stop this because it's not going to stop until somebody finally puts their foot down and makes it stop."

"Just because you say 'Nothing's going to bring Geoff back' - that couldn't be a more obvious statement," said Gaston. 

"I don't care. It should be long enough for him to sit in there and remember why he's in there and everyone like him."

At trial, Fracassi pleaded not guilty claiming he suffered from a sleep disorder and was 'sleep driving' when he hit Gaston.

The judge rejected that defence and found Fracassi passed out behind the wheel due to alcohol consumption and fatigue.

Fracassi is a married father of four young children aged 5, 8, 11 and 13 and Justice Boswell said he received 70 letters of reference on behalf of Fracassi.

"The court has sympathy for him," Boswell said. "He appears to be a gentle and caring person" but "many other gentle and caring people have been affected."

Boswell noted there were 24 victim impact statements and that Gaston's family remains "utterly crushed."

As court ended, Fracassi looked over at his family from the prisoner's box, his eyes filled with tears as his mother wept in the front row.

His wife Rachel left the courtroom sobbing.

With credit awarded by the judge for pre-sentence custody and time on bail, the judge said Fracassi will serve 5 years and six months.

Bev Hostyn, Director of Education and Awareness Barrie Simcoe Chapter of MADD was in court for the sentencing.

Hostyn lost her 18-year old granddaughter eight years ago to an impaired driver who was sentenced to under three years.

She said Fracassi's penalty reflects the evolution of how courts treat drunk drivers. 

"It's higher than average and it shows that it's being taken a little more seriously and it is increasing as we go along in the years.  It's all we can do to get the message out there and deter it."