‘He was a good kid,’ said hit-and-run defendant. ‘I was not.’
Eric J. Schachtel worked a full-time job at a fast-food restaurant while going to college to help his parents pay the bills.
Schachtel, 18, was riding his bike to work the night of Jan. 19 when he was killed by a hit-and-run driver in Roy.
An aspiring computer technician, the teenager had just made the Dean’s List at Pierce College, his family told The News Tribune.
On Friday, the driver who killed him was sentenced in Pierce County Superior Court.
Bradley Aaron Shepard, 32, got a mid-range sentence of eight years, five months in prison from Superior Court Judge Elizabeth Martin. He’d pleaded guilty earlier this year to vehicular homicide and hit-and-run as part of negotiations with prosecutors.
Shepard, sobbing, told the court that it had been dark and rainy that night and that he panicked. He knew he hit something, he said, but wasn’t sure what.
“I didn’t know Eric, but I wish I did,” Shepard told the judge before he was sentenced. “He was a good kid. I was not.”
Shepard said leaving the collision was the worst mistake he’s made.
“I’m so sorry for your loss,” he told the teenager’s family.
Schachtel’s stepfather, William Ellis, addressed Martin before she handed down the sentence.
“I can’t say enough about the tragedy that has happened to our family,” Ellis said. “It’s been almost a year, and we still can’t go into his bedroom.”
Charging papers say Shepard hit Schachtel in the 8600 block of 336th Street South, then kept driving to an acquaintance’s house. The acquaintance ultimately took him back to the scene, where Shepard spoke with investigators.
Meanwhile, passersby saw the injured bicyclist and called for help. Paramedics arrived and treated Schachtel, but he did not survive his injuries.
Judge Martin told Shepard that she was struck by the fact that he left the scene but appreciated that he tried to go back. She also said she believed that he is remorseful.
Martin told Schachtel’s family that she knows his death “has left a huge hole in your hearts that I cannot repair.”
Outside court, the family told The News Tribune that Schachtel had been quick to lend a hand, tutored other students during high school and liked fantasy novels.
He was cautious about riding his bicycle to work at night, they said, using a reflective vest, head and tail lights and regularly pulling over to let cars go by.