BELLINGHAM - A man who killed the driver of another car in a drunken driving crash this spring pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide Monday, Oct. 8.
Zachary L. Stokes, 25, was sentenced to one year and eight months in prison by Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Charles Snyder. That was the top end of the range for this particular case.
Stokes was driving on Ellis Street at about 2:30 p.m. April 15 when he lost control of the car at a sharp curve at Maple Street, according to court documents. The Volkswagen went off the road, onto a sidewalk, through a yard and then struck the driver's side of a Subaru stopped in an alley by the road. Herbert Roland Linde, 86, was behind the wheel of the Subaru at the time, and he received fatal injuries, including a severed aorta and spinal cord, according to court documents. Linde was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Stokes received minor injuries, and two passengers in his car were unhurt.
A Bellingham Police officer witnessed the crash and confirmed that Stokes was the driver. Stokes said that he had been drinking at a party the night before and had drinks at two restaurants the morning and afternoon before the crash, according to court documents. Chief Criminal Prosecutor Mac Setter said that Stokes had a blood alcohol level of 0.19 when tested after the crash.
The speed limit on that stretch of road is 25 mph, and crash reconstruction determined that Stokes was going 50 to 55 mph when he lost control, slowing to 40 by the time he hit Linde's car.
Stokes described the devastating impact of the crash to the court on Monday.
"The loss of Mr. Linde's life is something that's going to haunt me for the rest of my life," he said.
His father, Charlie Stokes, described the crash as aberrant behavior for his son.
"I think Zachary is truly sorry his actions caused (Linde's) death," he said.
Judge Snyder said he hoped Stokes would share his story with others, so that they might understand the potentially disastrous results of drunken driving.