Story Summary

Suspected DUI accidents

In 2012, 38,000 people were arrested for driving impaired, according to the Washington Department of Transportation. In 2011, there were more than 6,000 DUI-related crashes.  Of all the fatal accidents in Washington, more than one-third involved alcohol.

Within a 10-day period in 2013 (from March 25 until April 3), three people in the Seattle area were killed in two separate accidents by suspected drunken drivers. The incidents led to calls for tougher DUI legislation.

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BURIEN — A Marysville woman her husband were seriously injured on their way to the airport Wednesday morning after they were hit by a suspected drunken driver.

The couple slammed into a car that had crashed down a nearby embankment around 5 a.m. on Highway 509 near 128th St.

“The first thing I heard was a huge whomp.  There was no squeal of brakes, then another huge whomp,” said neighbor John McManus.

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It was the sound of a 2008 Chevy Malibu driven by 24 year-old Christopher K. Wittman of Tukwila who blew through a stop sign at S. 116th St. and 5th Ave. S. in Burien down a dead-end street and over a ravine onto the southbound lanes of Highway 509.

“At that point a vehicle driven by a husband and wife en route to the airport struck that vehicle and then was struck at least by three other cars if not a fourth,” said Washington State Patrol trooper Chris Webb.

People who live nearby are trying to comprehend how this happened. The suspect tried to run away but was arrested.  The couple who first hit Wittman was in a Mazda hatchback.  They are from Marysville and are both in their 50s.  They were taken to Harborview Medical Center, the woman in critical and the man in serious condition.

“It looks like he hit the big support post and it just launched him. He must have been just booking.  You can’t cause this kind of destruction without flying like that,” said neighbor John McManus.

Unfortunately, neighbors say they’ve seen reckless driving here before.

“This particular street for decades has been a raceway. I’ve lived in this area and there’s always cars speeding up and down there,” said resident Derek Johnson.

As of late Wednesday, Christopher Wittman had not been booked into the King County Jail. He was taken to Highline Medical Center for a blood draw, and investigators say he likely faces vehicular assault charges.

Wittman does not have a criminal history in Washington.

KENT — A convicted drunken driver who killed two teenagers had a quarter of his prison sentence reduced Friday.

Alexander Peder was supposed to serve eight and a half years behind bars for a June 2010 vehicular homicide.  Peder hit and killed Federal Way high school seniors Derek King and Nick Hodgins, and injured their friend Anthony Beaver.

pederWhen Peder was sentenced, the judge added two years as an enhancement for a prior DUI that had been reduced to a lesser charge.   Later, the state Supreme Court said you can’t do that.

To the families of the victims, it hurts, especially after they agreed to take part in a video with Peder and the Washington State Patrol.

The video was meant to be a prevention tool for the public; instead, the victim’s families say it feels like Peder used it as a pawn.

“It tells us that he is ringing a hollow bell of remorse,” said Derek King’s father, Randall.  “There’s absolutely no credence to anything he’s been telling us that he’s remorseful.  It makes us feel the video he did with us was a setup to get off and do this move.”

Aside from the enhancement reversal, Peder’s attorney also asked the judge to reconsider his client’s entire sentence and bring it down even more, but the judge denied that request.

The victims’ families say going through this hearing right before the holidays has been painful.

They’ve lost so much and feel this process is not fair.

“For him to do all this work to get out sooner, it just disgusts me.  It just disgusts me,” said Nick Hodgins’ mother, Mary Bobbitt.

Lawmakers used this case as a means to more than double the state’s vehicular homicide sentencing range.  Earlier this year, the Legislature also closed the loophole Peder used in this appeal and now judges must consider prior deferred DUIs as part of an offender’s criminal history.

 

pederKENT –  A King County District Court judge knocked two years off the 8 1/2-year prison sentence of Alexander Peder, a drunken driver who killed Federal Way teens Derek King and Nick Hodgins in June 2010.

Senior deputy prosecutor Amy Freidheim said it’s because of a technicality having to do with a prior Peder DUI that was deferred to a negligent driving charge.  At the time of Peder’s sentencing in April 2011, that deferred charge was included as an enhancement to Peder’s prison time.  After the fact, the state Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that violated state law and Peder and his attorney appealed the sentencing enhancement.

In 2013, the Legislature closed that loophole, clarifying that any deferred DUI charge must be included in a defendant’s criminal history but that does not apply to Peder’s case.

Hear from the victim’s families about this decision on Q13 FOX News at 4:00 and 5:00.

Local News
12/04/13

Would you favor DUI checkpoints in Washington?

SEATTLE — Most of us would agree that driving under the influence is never a good idea.

Nothing good can ever come from it and the consequences can be devastating.

DUI CHECKPOINTThe Washington Impaired Driving Work Group was created by the Legislature last year after repeat drunken driver Mark Mullan drove through a crosswalk and struck and killed Dennis and Judy Schulte and injured their daughter-n-law and grandchild.

The 33-member work group released its report on Monday with 11 ideas to for reducing the problem of drunken driving.

More than 80 percent of the work group supports the controversial sobriety checkpoints

“The research shows sobriety checkpoints are the most effective means in reducing deaths and serious injury. It’s the only thing left in Washington state we have not enacted,” State Rep. Roger Goodman, R-Kirkland, said.

“Sobriety checkpoints, on the other hand, are not a cost-effective measure to do that.  They do have a deterrent effect but what we’ve found is that that deterrent effect is not as large as had previously been thought,” ACLU legislative director Shankar Naravan said.

Narayan says saturation patrols, where departments flood an area with officers and target drunken drivers, are a better solution and already being used in Washington.

“Saturation patrols have been effective and they’ve been effective at less cost.  They operate on the same principle of deterrence and they actually catch a broader range of behaviors that you would want to catch,” Narayan said.

Plus with checkpoints in Washington, there is the issue of constitutionality.

“This has already been looked at by our state Supreme Court and I think they were very clear that this was clearly a criminal search and you can’t just authorize a criminal search without individualized suspicion — an area warrant just won’t cover it,” Narayan said.

Lakewood Police Chief Bret Farrar has looked at the issue from all sides and takes what some might consider a surprising position.

“I don’t believe in it.  I don’t believe in treating everybody like they’re guilty.  That’s just not the way we do things, so in my own personal opinion I don’t believe in the checkpoints and I’m not supportive of them,” Farrar said.

Other ideas supported by the group include tougher penalties, longer prison sentences, bigger fines for repeat offenders and lowering the number of DUIs before a driver is charged with a felony.

There was even an idea to ban repeat offenders from buying alcohol but few members thought that a good idea or one that could be effectively enforced.

Local News
11/22/13

Kirkland mother of three gets 11 years for deadly DUI crash

SEATTLE — A Kirkland mother of three, with no criminal background, will spend the next 11 years behind bars for a deadly DUI crash.

Last year, Kelly Hudson, 43, told a judge she was “absolutely not guilty.” But just a day before her trial was set to begin in September, she changed her plea, and on Friday, at her sentencing in King County Superior Court,  she heard from the families of the victims of the crash.

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Kelly Hudson

“I miss Mom every day,” said Linda Holtorf, the daughter of Joyce Parsons, who was killed in the crash. “How could a family that cared so much for each other suddenly have such sadness?”

Parsons was killed instantly when Hudson, driving while drunk, and on prescription drugs, swerved into the car  in which Parsons was a passenger.

Two other passengers were hurt, and the driver, Art Kamm, was so badly injured he nearly died. His son, John, explained to the judge how Art had been an active senior before the crash. A former Boeing executive who helped design the 747, he even built his own airplane in retirement.

But 15 months after that deadly car crash, he is just learning to walk again.

 “She has never shown any remorse,” John Kamm said of Hudson. “Never taken accountability and personal responsibility for what she did.”

 When it was time for Hudson to address the court, she offered an apology to all those she has hurt.

“I’m sorry are two words that are hard to hear, but I do take responsibility for my actions,” said Hudson. “And I will pray every day for the rest of my life for these people and this community.”

Hudson also told the judge if she could switch places with Joyce Parsons, she would.

 The judge still handed down one of the toughest sentences he could. Before the state’s DUI laws were toughened last year, Hudson would have faced no more than three years in prison.

Now she’ll be behind bars for 11 years. She will also be required to volunteer with Mothers Against Drunk Driving when she gets out of prison.

The victims’ families say they’re happy with the judge’s decision.

 “After seeing her at arraignment and her actions today, this is going to give her a little longer to think about what she did,” said Kamm.

Local News
11/21/13

Victims still struggling as Kirkland mom faces sentence for deadly DUI

SEATTLE — A day before a Kirkland mother is sentenced for a deadly DUI, the family of the victims say they are still struggling to recover.

“His life is totally different from what it was,”John Kamm said Thursday of his 87-year-old father, Art. “He went from a totally dependent 85-year-old, living independently and a very active person, to being totally dependent on everybody.”

4338kirkland0831_crashJohn and his brother Tom Kamm say their father is still learning to walk 15 months after a drunken driver smashed into the car he was driving. Art’s sister, Joyce Parsons, was killed, two of his passengers were badly hurt, and Art suffered 80 broken bones.

“He`s just mad that he`s in this spot,” said Tom Kamm. “And he did nothing wrong, that`s the hard part.”

Kelly Hudson, 43, is the person who did something wrong that night. She was driving drunk and on Valium when she crossed the center line and plowed into the victims’ car.

In her initial court appearance, Hudson’s lawyer used a large board to block her face and when asked how she would plead, she declared she was “absolutely not guilty.”

“I don`t think she`s ever really taken accountability for her actions,” said John Kamm.

But after months of court delays, and just prior to her trial, Hudson did plead guilty to vehicular DUI homicide. Because new, tougher DUI laws went into effect just before the crash, a sentence that would normally have been three years will now likely send her to prison for 11.

“It’s the same as manslaughter in the first degree,” said Amy Freedheim, the DUI prosecutor for King County. “Which is appropriate, because when you’re driving impaired, you are recklessly engaging in conduct that you know or ought to know can result in death.”

Freedheim has prosecuted plenty of deadly DUI cases over the past several years. She began collecting pictures of the victims in her cases, and they now fill the wall of her office.

“They deserve to be remembered, and not forgotten, and they give me strength,” said Freedheim. “This is why I do what I do, so that the wall doesn’t get bigger.”

It will get a little bigger, after Kelly Hudson is sentenced Friday. A photo of Parsons will take a place on the wall.

Parson’s nephews said they are also hoping to find some closure and help their dad finally recover.

gavelTACOMA — A 51-year-old Bonney Lake man who served prison time for killing a man in a car crash in 1999 was sentenced Friday to an exceptional sentence of 27 years in prison for hitting and killing a man walking on a roadside last year.

James Southard Jr. had earlier pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide in the death of Gary Slick, who was walking on a roadside in Bonney Lake on Aug. 11, 2012, when he was hit and killed.

At about 3:30 p.m. on that date, Slick was walking on the shoulder near the intersection of State Route 410 and 214th Avenue East in Bonney Lake. Southard swerved onto the shoulder, hitting and killing Slick, the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office said. Southard initially fled the scene on foot, but was later identified by witnesses when he returned to his vehicle parked on the side of the road.

According to the prosecutor’s office, after Southard was placed under arrest, he told police officers, “It wasn’t my fault. He was in the road… This isn’t fair.” Inside Southard’s truck, officers found methamphetamine and over 170 prescription drug pills.

In 1999, Southard caused a multiple car accident that resulted in the death of Shawn Fairbanks, the prosecutor’s office said. The defendant was intoxicated at the time of the accident and was convicted of vehicular homicide.

 

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Generic photo of a driver being arrested.

PORT ORCHARD, Wash. — A Port Orchard man has been arrested on suspicion of DUI for the 13th time, the Kitsap Sun reported Thursday.

Charles Thomas Sorensen, 49, was charged with felony DUI and with attempting to elude police in Kitsap County District Court Thursday, the newspaper said. Bail was set at $1 million.

The Washington State Patrol said Sorensen drove a truck into a ditch on Sedgwick Road at Banner Road Wednesday night and then fled state troopers who arrived at the scene. He was later stopped and troopers said the driver “swayed heavily” and “could not obey the simplest of commands,” the newspaper reported. The troopers said they found a half-empty beer and an open bottle of vodka in his truck.

According to the Kitsap Sun, court documents show Sorensen was last arrested for DUI in February 2007. He pleaded guilty and served 1 1/2 years in jail, before the state’s felony DUI went into effect in July 2007.

To reach the entire Kitsap Sun article, click here.

LYNDEN — Investigators are trying to figure out if a deadly accident outside Lynden was caused by a driver who was high on marijuana.

Flowers have been left at the site where 18-year-old Desirae Garrison Jones died Friday night. She was the passenger in a car that lost control and hit a power pole on West Badger Road.

The driver of that car, 20-year-old Curtis Guerrero Marquez, is now in custody for vehicular homicide.

“We have is a deceased 18-year-old because of this person’s driving,” Washington State Patrol trooper Keith Leary said. “It shouldn’t have happened.”

photoTroopers are still trying to figure out exactly what happened.  Police say that after the crash, Guerrero Marquez admitted to taking marijuana and some cold medicine.

“There was a search warrant issued and blood obtained from that driver,” Leary said.

Investigators are still waiting for the results, and the report from the drug recognition expert who responded to the crash. But this is the second deadly crash in a week that police say was caused by a driver who allegedly admitted he was high.

In the other crash, Blake Gaston, 23, was killed when a car turned in front of his motorcycle in Bellevue Friday. Police said Caleb Floyd, 33, told officers he had a medical marijuana card and had smoked pot before the crash.

“We have to remember that marijuana is still a drug, and it can potentially put you under the influence,” Leary said. “It’s going to impair your ability to drive a vehicle.”

Troopers say they’ve responded to crashes caused by drug-impaired drivers for years. But they’re afraid it’s going to become more common now that marijuana has been legalized in the state for those over 21.  They hope these crashes will help people understand how serious the consequences can be.

“Regardless of what’s legal or not legal, you don’t get behind the wheel. It’s as simple as that.”

Police said the driver in the Lynden crash also said he was racing another vehicle Friday night. Investigators are trying to figure out if that was true. He could face additional charges if that was a factor in the crash, and if his blood tests come back over the legal limit for marijuana.

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