Crime

Bellingham driver sentenced for hit and run of child on bike

Ann Marie Loeuy, 36, appears at Whatcom County Superior Court in the Whatcom County Jail on Friday, Oct. 9, 2015. She was arrested on suspicion of hit and run resulting in injury among other charges.
Ann Marie Loeuy, 36, appears at Whatcom County Superior Court in the Whatcom County Jail on Friday, Oct. 9, 2015. She was arrested on suspicion of hit and run resulting in injury among other charges. pdwyer@bhamherald.com

A Bellingham woman must serve time in jail and under house arrest for a crash in which she struck a boy on a bike, drove him to his school, and dropped him off bleeding and hobbling to get help on his own.

A Whatcom County judge sentenced Ann Marie Loeuy to 15 days behind bars and 75 days of house arrest Wednesday, June 29, for felony hit and run.

The boy, 12, had been pedaling his bike east in the wide curbed shoulder of Cottonwood Avenue around 9 a.m. Oct. 6. As he rode across an unmarked crosswalk at Cherrywood Avenue, a car slowly rolled into the intersection to go north, according to charging papers.

The car crashed into the boy’s left leg. He was thrown from his bike.

The driver jumped out of the car and asked if he was OK. He said yes, but he asked if he should call his dad. She said they should just get him to school, according to the boy’s account. So the boy got into the front seat of her car, and she loaded his bike into the back seat.

She dropped him off near Shuksan Middle School and drove off. He hobbled at least 100 yards on a badly bruised and bleeding leg to the school, according to a statement from his family. Photos in the court record show the boy in the emergency room, with a flap of skin torn off his right cheek. The wound needed 13 stitches to close.

Police asked the public for tips to find the driver. The next day, a witness called an officer saying she’d talked with the driver that morning right after the crash. She’d asked the Toyota driver if she needed help, but the woman answered she was only helping a boy who fell off his bike, she reported. She recognized the driver as a mom in the neighborhood. Their kids went to the same preschool.

An officer then talked with Loeuy, 37, at her house on Cottonwood, a quarter-mile from the scene of the crash. A Toyota Avalon sat in her driveway. Loeuy denied knowing about a child hit by a car. She’d dropped off her son at school around 8:30 a.m., she said, before she went home.

Police circled back and interviewed the witness and the boy again. Their stories pointed to Loeuy. She was arrested Oct. 8 to face a charge of hit and run. She posted $10,000 bond that week. Loeuy pleaded guilty as charged in May in a deal suggesting a total of 90 days.

Ann Marie Loeuy, 36, appears at Whatcom County Superior Court in the Whatcom County Jail on Friday, Oct. 9, 2015. She was arrested on suspicion of hit and run resulting in the injury of a 12-year-old boy, among other charges.

“We may never know what actually occurred that day, when (the boy) was hit on the bicycle,” Deputy Prosecutor Christopher Quinn said at the sentencing hearing Wednesday. “It could have simply been a horrible accident, with no responsibility. What we do know is that Ms. Loeuy did not comply with her obligation to remain at the scene.”

Loeuy had no felony history. Over the past few years she’d been ticketed for using her phone while driving and speeding in a school zone. In October her license had been suspended for failing to pay a fine, but she contended she wasn’t aware of the suspension, Quinn said.

The boy’s family wrote a one-page victim impact statement about the aftermath of the crash but declined to attend the hearing this week.

“Again, no help, while his face is bleeding, his leg is badly injured and he could be going into shock,” the statement reads. “WHY???? We will never understand why she didn’t help … and it continues to be a question for all of us.”

The defense attorney, Mark Kaiman, explained to Judge Raquel Montoya-Lewis that Loeuy struggles with anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress due to life-threatening medical problems in two of her own young children: tuberculosis and a rare respiratory illness for one son; abnormal fluid buildup around the lungs while in the womb and an enlarged heart at birth for her youngest boy.

A family doctor wrote a letter to the court saying that, though she is a caring and loving as a mother, Loeuy “tends to become very overwhelmed with a stressful situation or crisis.”

Over the past months, her attorney said, she’s had time to reflect on how wrong her actions were.

“The decisions that she made on Oct. 6 are inexplicable in a lot of ways,” Kaiman said. “She panicked. She was afraid. And she took a bad situation and made it worse because of that panic and fear.”

Loeuy delivered a one-minute statement to the judge through tears Thursday. She apologized to the boy’s family and begged for forgiveness.

“All I can tell you is that I panicked those couple days in October,” she said.

State sentencing guidelines suggest a standard jail term of three to nine months. Judge Montoya-Lewis approved a sentence at the bottom of that range.

“I really am depending on you to make different choices in the future,” the judge told Loeuy.

Restitution remains to be determined. Once she’s out of jail Loeuy will be on probation for six months, and she has to complete a four-hour defensive driving class online.

Caleb Hutton: 360-715-2276, @bhamcaleb

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