Crime

Top crime stories of 2016: High-speed T-bone crash shears car in half, leaves Lynden woman in critical condition

Bellingham man sentenced for causing high-speed car crash

John Owens appears in Whatcom Superior Court in Bellingham, Wednesday, June 15, 2016. Owens was sentenced to two years and two months in prison for vehicular assault for causing a January crash that left a woman critically injured.
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John Owens appears in Whatcom Superior Court in Bellingham, Wednesday, June 15, 2016. Owens was sentenced to two years and two months in prison for vehicular assault for causing a January crash that left a woman critically injured.

A high-speed crash in Bellingham sheared a car in half and left a Lynden woman fighting for her life in January.

Katherine Robins and her fiancé Dakota Buttrey were headed east from Bellingham International Airport in a gray 1990 Volvo. As the Volvo drove through the intersection at Northwest Avenue, a Hyundai Azera ran a red light. The cars collided with such force that the Volvo ripped in half and exploded. A door came to rest on the roof of the nearby Heritage Bank. A wheel shot through the bank’s window.

Buttrey somehow escaped with no serious injuries. Police found Robins, 20, in a “portion” of the Volvo. She had suffered massive, severe injuries.

“Everyone thought I was going to die, and the doctors were shocked that I lived,” she said in a written statement to a judge.

The other driver ran off, leaving blood and hair in the Hyundai’s front windshield. Around midnight John Reinard Owens, 39, emerged from the woods by his mother’s house, about 1 ½ miles from the crash. Police were waiting for him.

Owens pleaded guilty in May to vehicular assault.

“Half an inch one way or the other, and this would have been a vehicular homicide case,” said Deputy Prosecutor Christopher Quinn.

At his sentencing hearing in June his attorney, Jeff Lustick, gave an overview of Owens’ life: abandoned as a child by his father; abused physically and sexually; counseled for mental problems as early as second grade; a witness to a gruesome death of a friend at age 15; addicted to drugs and alcohol; and mentally ill.

Superior Court Judge Raquel Montoya-Lewis sentenced Owens to 26 months in prison, as suggested by a plea deal.

Caleb Hutton: 360-715-2276, @bhamcaleb

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