A judge told a repeat DUI offender Thursday that sentencing limits imposed by the Legislature prevent him from giving her more than four years in prison for a crash that left a father of two with a permanent traumatic brain injury.
Tyreen Wells, 36, admitted Thursday she was driving drunk on Steilacoom Road SE on May 19 when she fled a sheriff’s deputy, ran a four-way stop sign and then crashed her Chevy Tahoe into a vehicle driven by Andrew Kill, a former funeral director at Funeral Alternatives in Tumwater.
During Thursday’s court hearing, Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon immediately sentenced Wells to 48 months in prison following her guilty plea to vehicular assault and eluding a police vehicle.
Dixon noted he had imposed an exceptional sentence sought by the prosecuting attorney, which allowed him to increase Wells’ prison time to four years.
Dixon said sentencing requirements handed down by the Legislature prevented him from giving Wells more time behind bars.
“At some point, you’ll get out and you’ll get on with your life,” Dixon told Wells, who suffered only minor injuries in the May 19 crash. “After your release, when you’re out in the community, Mr. Kill will still be suffering the consequences of your criminal behavior.”
At the time of the crash, Kill was leaving the home of a family that had just suffered the loss of a loved one.
Kill uses a walker to get around more than eight months after the crash, and has been unable to return to work since his release from the hospital. Kill said Thursday that he was unconscious at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle for five weeks after the crash. He added that he is “always sore.”
In requesting the maximum sentence, Kill’s wife, Michelle, described her husband’s trials in having to relearn how to walk and talk. She cried as she explained she does not know how the family will be able to provide for their two children, Adrienne 13, and Addison, 11, because Andrew cannot return to work.
“It’s very unlikely that he’ll get back to where he was,” Michelle Kill said.
Andrew Kill’s mother, Darlene Kill-Overmyer, said she has sold her home in Ohio and moved to Washington to live with her son and help his family.
Outside court, Thurston County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney James Powers noted that the Legislature has recently changed the law to allow longer prison sentences for DUI offenders in vehicular homicide cases.
Powers said the Legislature should do the same thing for DUI offenders who cause permanent, disabling injuries in vehicular assault cases.
“I do agree that the penalties for vehicular assault by driving under the influence are way too low,” Powers said.
“The laws just need to be changed,” Kill-Overmyer said. “He has a life sentence with this,” she added, referring to her son.
Wells has two prior DUI convictions. Dixon noted that the prior DUI convictions did not count against Well in her vehicular assault sentencing Thursday because they occurred more than 10 years ago.
Wells’ attorney, Sean Taschner, said in court that Wells has drug and alcohol addictions, and is very remorseful for the crash that injured Kill.