Driver gets 21 months in prison for Lynden crash that killed passenger

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJune 18, 2014 

LYNDEN - A 21-year-old man must spend one year and nine months in prison for causing a crash that killed a young woman in October on a rural road west of Lynden.

Curtis J. Guerrero-Marquez, a resident of Halverstick Road, crossed the center line in his 1995 Acura Integra on West Badger Road at a high speed around 5:55 p.m. Oct. 4, 2013, according to court records. His car flipped and struck a power pole on the passenger side. The pole sheared and landed on the totaled Acura.

Desirae Diamond Garrison-Jones, 18, of Lynden, had been sitting in the passenger seat. She died at the scene of the crash, near Markworth Road.

State troopers claimed that Guerrero-Marquez had been impaired by marijuana and cold medicine. He admitted to consuming both before driving, but the THC level of his blood sample came up significantly below the legal limit, and an active ingredient in the cold medicine was "untestable," said Whatcom County Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Eric Richey.

Prosecutors still had a strong case that Guerrero-Marquez had been driving recklessly - another way to prove vehicular homicide in Washington - in part because he admitted he had been racing with another car. The other driver denied participating in a race, even if Guerrero-Marquez thought they were racing. That person never faced charges.

Soon after the crash, Guerrero-Marquez told authorities he wanted to accept responsibility.

Garrison-Jones' family had conflicting opinions about how he should be punished, Richey said. Some believed he had been punished enough by the loss of his friend, others wanted him to do prison time.

Last month, Guerrero-Marquez pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide, taking a plea deal that would put him behind bars for 21 months. Superior Court Judge Deborra Garrett approved the sentence Wednesday morning, June 18.

Guerrero-Marquez had no felony history. Once he's released from prison, he cannot drink alcohol while he's on probation for 18 months. He agreed to pay restitution for medical and funeral bills, but the exact amount hasn't been agreed upon.

Reach Caleb Hutton at 360-715-2276 or caleb.hutton@bellinghamherald.com. Read his Dispatcher Blog at bellinghamherald.com/dispatcher-blog or follow him on Twitter at @bhamcrime.

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