Court Report

EVERETT — A 17-year-old Skagit County girl was sentenced Tuesday to a juvenile detention facility after previously pleading guilty to causing an April vehicle collision that left a Sedro-Woolley man dead.

The girl pleaded guilty to one count of vehicular homicide while under the influence for the death of 31-year-old Riley Conard and one count of vehicular assault while under the influence for injuring a passenger in Conard’s vehicle.

The Skagit Valley Herald does not name juveniles accused of crimes unless they are charged as adults.

Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Joseph Wilson sentenced the girl, who will turn 18 in December, to between 15 and 36 weeks in juvenile detention for the homicide and 30 days for the assault — the maximums allowed because of the girl’s age.

In juvenile cases, judges sentence defendants to ranges. The actual sentences are decided at juvenile detention centers based on a variety of factors, said Snohomish County prosecutor Julie Mohr.

The case was handled by the Snohomish County justice system because one of the girl’s parents works in law enforcement in Skagit County.

The collision occurred about 6 p.m. April 25 near the intersection of Chuckanut Drive and Pulver Road west of Burlington. Conard, who had the right of way, was driving a Ford F250 pickup truck when his vehicle was struck by a Ford Escape driven by the girl.

A blood test determined the girl had marijuana in her system at the time of the collision.

Conard’s wife and two young sons were in the truck at the time of the collision, court records show. All of the family suffered injuries, including one of the children who suffered a skull fracture.

The family had been heading home after doing last-minute birthday shopping for one of the boys, Conard’s wife, Suzanne Corrow, said.

“On April 25, our world crashed down around us, literally,” Corrow said at the sentencing. “We lost our best friend, our provider and our future.”

Instead of celebrating a birthday, she said, she had to tell the boys, who were 5 and 6 at the time, their father was dead.

“No little boy should have to live that,” Corrow said. “No little boy should have to live this nightmare.”

Before Tuesday, Corrow said, she didn’t know what she would say to the girl at her sentencing. She was filled with anger and hate, she said.

“She made the choice to drive and she made the choice to smoke,” Corrow said. “Her one selfish, impaired choice took away (everything).”

Through tears, however, Corrow said she forgave the girl — a statement that caused the already crying girl to cry harder.

In her statement, the girl said she will have feelings of sorrow and remorse for the rest of her life.

“I would do anything to change what happened,” she said. “The truth is, I’ll be released (from detention) at some point, but I’ll never be released from my remorse.”

As in previous hearings, family and friends of Conard wore red T-shirts that read #JusticeForRiley. Some of the friends and family, Mohr said, had expressed frustration at the extent to which the girl could be punished.

According to state law, 16- or 17-year-olds charged with qualifying violent offenses, including murder, are automatically charged as adults. Vehicular homicide is not one of those charges.

Wilson, who said he had a brother who was killed by a marijuana-impaired driver, spoke thoughtfully to the Conard family, saying he wished there was something he could say that would ease their pain.

“In reading the letters about (Conard), he was clearly a remarkable young man,” Wilson said. “I wish I could take away the pain that I read in these letters.”

If not for the fact that the girl had marijuana in her system, Conard’s death would have been a “tragic accident,” Wilson said. Instead, he said, “the reverberation of this will last generations.”

When released, the girl said she hopes to attend college and be a contributing member of society. That, Wilson said, would be a way for the girl to move forward and honor Conard’s life.

“It’s a remarkable thing to take from someone all that he has, all that he’ll ever be,” Wilson told the girl. “I think the compassion shown to you today is a remarkable example of human nature.”

After the sentencing, Corrow and the girl’s mother embraced.

Of her sentence, the girl has already served 54 days. The girl was also ordered to never again have contact with Corrow and her children.

A restitution hearing remains to be scheduled.

— Reporter Kera Wanielista: 360-416-2141, kwanielista@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Kera_SVH, facebook.com/KeraReports

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