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Pembroke dentist Christy Natsis found guilty in drunk driving causing death trial

Tony Spears - Postmedia Network

Pembroke dentist Dr. Christy Natsis leaves the Elgin Street courthouse in Ottawa through a side door Friday, May 29, 2015 after she was convicted of impaired and dangerous driving, both causing death, in the March 2011 crash that killed Bryan Casey.

Pembroke dentist Dr. Christy Natsis leaves the Elgin Street courthouse in Ottawa through a side door Friday, May 29, 2015 after she was convicted of impaired and dangerous driving, both causing death, in the March 2011 crash that killed Bryan Casey.

Despite 55 intense trial days, Charter challenges and accusations of police bungling, Pembroke dentist Dr. Christy Natsis was convicted of causing the death of Bryan Casey.

Judge Neil Kozloff convicted her Friday of impaired driving and dangerous driving, both causing death, in the fatal March 31, 2011 crash.

In a meticulous decision that took over three hours to read, Kozloff found he had no doubt that Natsis was guilty as charged.

Crown prosecutors John Ramsay and Julian Daller accepted congratulations from emotional members of Casey's family after Kozloff gave his decision.

"I will never forget the look on our children's faces when I told them what happened," Casey's widow, LeeEllen Carroll, told reporters outside the court.

"I will never forget the pain in their eyes and in their hearts."

Casey's father, Gus Casey, spoke softly but gratefully of the doctors and paramedics "who made such an effort to save him."

The Crazy Horse bar in Kanata was the opening act of this tragedy.

That's where Natsis was spotted sipping Chardonnay -- two glasses -- before tottering off to her car at 7:30 p.m.

Witnesses said she was stumbling before getting into her black Ford Expedition -- and that she struck another car in the parking lot before peeling away.

Once on Hwy. 17, her speeding SUV drew more stares from drivers, who saw her drifting erratically on the shoulder while buzzing along at speeds approaching 130 km/h.

Near Arnprior, she drifted into eastbound traffic and hit Casey's truck head-on. She escaped unscathed but Casey was fatally wounded.

"He was a man who was dying in front of our eyes," a doctor recalled.

Natsis, meanwhile, asked for gum when help approached, and she reeked of booze, the court heard.

OPP officers arrested her and took her to hospital.

A breath test showed she had 2-1/2 times the legal limit of alcohol in her blood stream, but cops blundered when they cut short a conversation with her lawyer, leading Kozloff to find her rights to counsel had been violated.

He threw out the readings.

Defence lawyer Michael Edelson and his high-powered team also spent hours grilling police collisions investigators over slovenly errors.

These -- coupled with the fact that Casey himself was driving with a blood-alcohol level well over the limit -- suggested Natsis could well have been acquitted.

While Kozloff found the cops to be less than exemplary, the observations of the civilian witnesses and physical evidence at the crash scene took him over the threshold of reasonable doubt.

Indeed, evidence recovered from Casey's truck showed he'd hit the brakes and tried to swerve when Natsis came barrelling into him, in a "tragically unsuccessful attempt to avoid a collision," Kozloff said.

Computers on Natsis's SUV revealed no such actions on her part.

Natsis returns to court June 10 to set a date for a sentencing hearing, which is likely at least three months away.

It may take place in Pembroke.

She remains free on bail.

tony.spears@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @ottawasuntonys