A Whatcom County man must spend five years and six months in prison for a crash that killed his friend southwest of Sumas, a Superior Court judge ruled Thursday, Jan. 7.
Marcelino Perfecto-Garcia, 25, a berry farm worker, crashed his blue 1995 Mitsubishi Eclipse around 6 p.m. July 6 while westbound in the 3000 block of Clearbrook Road, a rural road 1 ½ miles south of the Canadian border.
The car crashed into a white picket fence and came to a rest against a log, in thick brush, about 40 feet down an embankment. One witness told sheriff’s deputies the car had been going so fast the wood “just exploded” on impact. Part of the fence pierced the windshield, killing Ruben Vazquez-Tellez, 25, who had been in the passenger seat, according to charging papers.
Witnesses told sheriff’s deputies they saw a Hispanic man — about 5-foot-4, in dark jeans, and a black shirt over a long-sleeved white shirt — run from the scene.
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Deputies searched the neighborhood with a police dog, trailing a scent that led northward, but could find not find the driver. Four hours later the registered owner of the car, Perfecto-Garcia, was discovered at his house in the 2400 block of Halverstick Road, about 2 ¾ miles from the crash. He was not seriously hurt. He was advised of his rights in Spanish and admitted he’d been drinking alcohol with his friend before the crash.
He made a terrible choice to get behind the wheel. He acknowledges that.
Angela Anderson, deputy public defender, on driver Marcelino Perfecto-Garcia
Two boxes of beer, Corona and Modelo Especial, had been abandoned in the Mitsubishi. Some bottles were open, strewn around the car. Washington State Patrol troopers did not get a warrant to draw Perfecto-Garcia’s blood, due to the amount of time that had elapsed since the crash, said Deputy Prosecutor Christopher Quinn.
The deputy public defender, Angela Anderson, expected to contest the confession that Perfecto-Garcia gave to the state patrol, since Perfecto-Garcia’s primary language is a native dialect, not Mexican Spanish. The case never got to that point, however, as Perfecto-Garcia wanted to accept responsibility for what he’d done to his best friend.
“He made a terrible choice to get behind the wheel,” she said. “He acknowledges that.”
Perfecto-Garcia pleaded guilty Thursday to the vehicular homicide by manner of reckless driving, felony hit and run, and driving under the influence. Quinn and Anderson declined to talk specifically about Perfecto-Garcia’s immigration status, but both noted, in a general sense, that these felonies would lead to deportation proceedings for someone who isn’t a U.S. citizen.
Perfecto-Garcia made a brief statement in court apologizing to the family of Vazquez-Tellez.
“I want to apologize to all of them,” Perfecto-Garcia said, through an interpreter, “and I miss him with all my heart.”
No other friends or family spoke on behalf of Vazquez-Tellez.
Superior Court Judge Ira Uhrig handed down a sentence of 66 months in prison, as recommended by the plea deal.