A suspected drunken driver was arrested almost three miles from the scene of a crash that left one man dead Monday, July 7, southwest of Sumas.
A blue 1995 Mitsubishi Eclipse was speeding around a bend at 6 p.m. in the 3000 block of Clearbrook Road when the driver lost control of the westbound car and crashed into two fences, according to the Washington State Patrol. The Eclipse came to a rest in thick brush at the bottom of an embankment, about 40 feet from the road, in rural Whatcom County.
A wooden split-rail fence post pierced the windshield, killing Ruben Vazquez-Tellez, 25, in the passenger seat. He died at the scene from “penetrating cranial trauma,” said Gary Goldfogel, the county medical examiner.
By the time sheriff’s deputies reached the wreck, the driver was gone. Bottles of beer were strewn “all over” in the car, troopers said, along with a case of Modelo Especial.
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A witness told them a young, short Hispanic man — in jeans, and a white T-shirt over a black long-sleeved shirt — got out of the car and started running toward Van Buren Road.
For the next four hours a police dog tracked a scent north toward the Canadian border, then west to a berry farm in the 2400 block of Halverstick Road, a 2 ¾-mile drive from the crash, and about a half-mile south of the border.
There troopers and sheriff’s deputies found Marcelino Perfecto-Garcia, 24, the registered owner of the car. He was arrested at 10:40 p.m. He did not need medical aid.
After he was informed in Spanish of his Constitutional rights, Perfecto-Garcia admitted he’d been drinking alcohol before the crash, said Deputy Prosecutor Christopher Quinn.
Perfecto-Garcia also knew that his friend had been hurt, Quinn said, but he didn’t call for an ambulance or call for police.
According to authorities, Vazquez-Tellez was a migrant farm worker and a Mexican citizen. He did not have ID on him, briefly stalling efforts to identify him.
In court Tuesday afternoon Superior Court Commissioner Leon Henley asked Perfecto-Garcia, through a Spanish interpreter, if he had any questions about his rights. Perfecto-Garcia — who did not appear injured in any way — whispered back and forth with Deputy Public Defender Angela Anderson and the interpreter.
“He just wants to have an attorney, your honor,” Anderson said.
Henley explained that the woman standing next to him was an attorney. He asked if Perfecto-Garcia understood that. He said he did. Henley asked if he had any other questions.
“I just need help,” Perfecto-Garcia said in Spanish.
“All right,” Henley said, “that’s what your attorney is there for.”
Perfecto-Garcia faces charges of vehicular homicide, felony hit and run and driving without a valid license. He has no criminal history in Washington state or federal courts.
Henley set bail at $100,000, as requested by the prosecutor. If Perfecto-Garcia posts bond, he won’t be allowed to drive or drink alcohol.