A young woman who received a one-month sentence in 2011 for a crash that killed a Bellingham toddler was jailed again last week on suspicion of driving under the influence.
Carli Renee Alvarado was a 16-year-old Bellingham High School student in September 2010 when she crashed into the back of another car near Assumption Catholic School while going 5 to 12 mph over the speed limit. The other car, which had been stopped, jolted forward into a family that was crossing the street. Anna Marie Brulotte, 2, who had been holding the hand of her mother, Melissa, was killed.
Alvarado had two friends in the car, in violation of her intermediate license, and she had been digging through her backpack while driving, looking for a caterpillar she wanted to show her friends. Police believe she lost focus for two or three seconds, long enough that she never saw the car in front of her.
At trial Alvarado was found guilty of vehicular homicide. Juvenile Court Commissioner Alfred Heydrich sentenced her to an exceptionally short sentence of 30 days in juvenile detention, well below the standard range of 15 to 36 weeks. The light sentence, Heydrich said, allowed him to tack on one year on probation and 150 hours of community service. She was court-ordered to give presentations about her experience.
“I want some good to come out of this tragedy,” Heydrich said at the time. “I can’t undo what happened here. What I think we can do is to act to greatly reduce the chance that something like this will happen again.”
Last week Alvarado, now a hairstylist fresh out of cosmetology school, was arrested on a new driving offense.
State patrol reports obtained by The Bellingham Herald show that around 1:40 a.m. July 3, 2015, a trooper pulled over her silver 2002 Volvo S60 for a broken right taillight and expired tabs on Meador Avenue at North State Street in Bellingham. The trooper asked the driver where she’d been that night.
“Downtown,” slurred Alvarado, 20, according to the report.
She also smelled of alcohol, the trooper wrote. Alvarado explained that she’d had one drink, a beer, about three hours earlier. Her first breath test, however, gauged her blood-alcohol content at 0.103, the report says.
After being advised of her rights, Alvarado admitted she’d actually used a college friend’s fake Alaskan ID to buy drinks — “three glasses and one shot” — at a Bellingham Bells baseball game and two downtown bars before she got in the car with a friend, according to the report.
She lost her balance three times when the trooper asked her to take nine steps one way and nine steps back, and her speech was slurred, according to the report. There was marijuana in the car’s cup holder.
Two later breath tests, at 3:17 and 3:21 a.m., showed blood-alcohol levels of 0.082 and 0.079, according to the report.
Alvarado, who was a few weeks short of her 21st birthday, spent about eight hours in jail on suspicion of driving under the influence and minor in possession of alcohol, according to booking records. The trooper gave her warnings for the marijuana and the fake ID.
Often a vehicular homicide conviction makes any future DUI a felony, but because the deadly 2010 crash did not involve drugs or alcohol, state law makes this alleged DUI a misdemeanor.
Alvarado was arraigned Monday, July 6, in Whatcom County District Court. She posted $1,000 bond.
She did not return a Bellingham Herald reporter’s phone call this week. Her next court hearing is set for Aug. 24.
Soon after Anna Brulotte was killed, her family set up an advocacy group to educate young drivers on distracted driving. Cars around the city wore bumper stickers urging drivers, “Remember Anna.”
“I don’t want it to happen again,” Melissa Brulotte told the Herald six months after the crash. “I don’t want people to forget what happened to her. Feel that sense of personal responsibility for other people’s lives when you get in a car.”
Efforts to reach Melissa Brulotte for comment this week weren’t successful.
At her sentencing hearing in 2011, Alvarado apologized to Anna’s family.
“Every day I pray for Anna and I pray asking for God’s forgiveness,” Alvarado said. “I wish I could go back and live that day all over again.”
Commissioner Heydrich offered her some advice in light of her sentence: “Take advantage of this opportunity,” he said, “and do some good with it.”