Bonney Lake man gets 27 years for his second vehicular homicide conviction

Staff writerNovember 1, 2013 

A 10-year prison sentence and the knowledge he killed a man wasn't enough to keep James Southard Jr. from climbing behind the wheel while intoxicated again.

Maybe a 27-year sentence will.

That's what the 51-year-old Southard received Friday in Pierce County Superior Court after racking up a second vehicular homicide conviction in 13 years.

Southard last month pleaded guilty to that charge for running down Gary Slick in August 2012 as Slick walked along 214 Avenue East in Bonney Lake.

Slick was 47 and a married father who coached youth sports teams.

Investigators said Southard was intoxicated on either alcohol or drugs when he hit Slick, but he pleaded guilty to causing Slick's death while operating a vehicle with a disregard for the safety of others.

The plea deal allowed him to avoid a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole under Washington's "three strikes you're out" law. He'd have gone away forever if he'd admitted he was drunk or high when he killed Slick, court records show.

One of his other strikes was a vehicular homicide conviction from 2000. In that case, Southard admitted he was drunk when he caused a series of crashes that resulted in the death of Shawn Fairbanks, 37.

Southard served his sentence, got out and killed again.

The 27 years he got Friday was more than three times the high end of the standard range, and Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said the sentence hopefully will mean "this defendant should never be on our roads again.”



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