Superior Court Judge Karena Kirkendoll said she got at least 100 letters about 28-year-old Kasandra Moffett before she was to sentence the woman’s killer.
“I read every one of them,” she said in court Friday.
Family, friends, coworkers, neighbors and classmates from her school days on wrote in praise of Moffett’s character.
One letter that moved Kirkendoll read: “Her life mattered more than my words can express.”
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The man who took that life last year is 31-year-old Donivan Emanuel Crews, who pleaded guilty to the University Place wreck that killed Moffett, a Tacoma resident, and injured five others.
Kirkendoll sentenced him to 23 years, four months in prison, which is what deputy prosecutor Tim Jones recommended.
Jones said Crews was celebrating a new job June 18, 2016, and had been drinking. A University Place officer noticed Crews didn’t have his headlights on as he was driving and tried to pull him over. That’s when Crews, who had two prior DUIs and a suspended license, fled.
“What ensued was a horrific collision at 27th and Bridgeport,” Jones told the judge.
As part of negotiations with prosecutors, Crews pleaded guilty in July to first-degree manslaughter, vehicular homicide, four counts of vehicular assault and trying to elude police.
In addition to Moffett, he injured a passenger in his own vehicle and four people in the other. That included the other driver, who spoke at sentencing.
“I know we all make mistakes, but this mistake that Mr. Crews made caused a horrific amount of pain,” 26-year-old Rondell Kinlow said.
He and Moffett met at Foss High School and were close friends when they later worked together at Buffalo Wild Wings in Tacoma.
Moffett was sitting behind him, he said, when Crews T-boned their side of the vehicle.
Kinlow’s injuries left him in a coma for several weeks after the wreck, he said, and he has another surgery next month, which he hopes will be his last.
“If he would have just stopped when the cops turned on their sirens, it would have been a simple DUI,” he said.
Moffett’s mother, Shirley Moffett, also told the court that Crews had choices, and made the wrong ones.
“She had so many friends and so many people that she helped along the way,” Shirley Moffett told the judge about her youngest daughter.
An example: Kasandra Moffett once moved to California to support a friend diagnosed with cancer.
Grandma Shirley Scharmer asked the judge for a 28-year sentence, to match Moffett’s age.
“There’s a hole in my heart that cannot be filled,” she said, adding that she no longer gets to hear Moffett say: “Hi Grams, what’s up?”
Loved ones in the courtroom chuckled at that — Moffett used the phrase with regularity.
They also chuckled when the judge noted Moffett’s great number of nicknames. Kas, Kasi, baby girl, Kane — she had at least a dozen terms of endearment.
When it was his turn to speak, Crews apologized for his actions.
“I’m sorry for the pain and sorrow that I’ve caused,” he said. “This should have never happened.”
Defense attorney Ken Blanford told the judge Crews grew up with a father addicted to drugs, leaving his mother to work two jobs to support the family.
While she was working, he suffered abuse “no child should be subjected to,” the attorney said.
Alcohol became Crews’ coping mechanism, which Blanford said cost his client his military and academic careers.
Crews’ brother wrote the court a letter on behalf of his family that detailed those struggles, and apologized to the Moffetts.
It’s heartbreaking, he wrote, that the wreck happened as Crews had just gotten a job that could have brought him security.
“You all deserve justice,” the brother wrote. “But now knowing the long fight my brother has fought to live a positive life in the midst of turmoil, it is our family’s hope that justice be tempered with mercy.”
Kirkendoll said she had empathy for the fact that alcoholism is a disease but that she had to take into account the prior DUIs, and the fact that Crews ran from police.
The resulting loss, she said, was immeasurable.