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March 9, 2012 at 1:48 PM

4-year sentence in Kirkland vehicular homicide

Patrick Rexroat arrives in the courtroom of King Co. Superior Court Judge Sharon Armstrong to be sentenced on Friday, March 9, 2012, in Seattle, Wash. (Photo by John Lok / The Seattle Times)

A Snohomish man who pleaded guilty last month to a fatal alcohol-fueled crash in Kirkland last summer was sentenced today to four years in prison.

Patrick Rexroat, 57, pleaded guiltyto vehicular homicide and reckless driving in connection with the July 24 crash that killed Steven Lacey, a father and Google employee. After slamming his sport-utility vehicle into Lacey’s car, Rexroat got out of his vehicle and “pounded on his chest like a gorilla,” according to a witness to the fatal crash.

A State Patrol lab test found that Rexroat had a blood-alcohol level of 0.29 percent, or more than three times the legal limit of 0.08 percent, after the crash, authorities said.

Troopers said Rexroat may have been chasing another car southbound on Interstate 405 in a possible case of road rage when his SUV careened off an exit ramp at Northeast 85th Street, crossing the centerline of Northeast 85th and colliding with the BMW driven by Lacey.

Witness Patricia Kaiser said in an interview with The Times after the crash that she was just feet from the two cars when she saw Rexroat’s SUV fly around a corner and slam into Lacey’s BMW.

“I ran over to the BMW first because it was completely totaled,” Kaiser said. “I took [the driver’s] pulse, and he was dead.”

Minutes later, Rexroat climbed from his vehicle and started wandering around, picking up parts of his SUV from the ground, she said.

“Eventually he came toward me. I told him, ‘Don’t come toward me,’ ” Kaiser said. “He just started pounding his chest like a gorilla. I was so upset. I knew the minute he got out of the car he was drunk. You could tell.”

The accident and others like it led to the state Legislature to recently pass a bill that will toughen the sentence for DUI-related vehicular homicides.  Defendants in these cases will go from serving a minimum of about 20 months in prison to nearly five years, a penalty on par with a first-degree manslaughter sentence, prosecutors said.

The change in law will go into effect 90 days and does not impact the Rexroat case.

Rexroat, who was sentenced to the top end of the range, will be given credit for the nearly eight months he has already served in the King County Jail since his arrest in July. If he accrues good time while in prison, Rexroat could be released in about two years. While he was also sentenced to 18 months of community supervision, his age and lack of a criminal history will likely mean he won’t be actively supervised upon his release.

About two dozen people, mostly relatives and friends of Lacey, along with representatives from the State Patrol, attended the sentencing before King County Superior Court Judge Sharon Armstrong. She ordered Rexroat to pay $1,000 to the State Patrol for its emergency response to the crash and ordered him, upon his release, not to consume alcohol or enter any business where alcohol is the primary product being sold. Restitution to Lacey’s family will be determined at a later date and Rexroat will go before Armstrong in March 2015 for a review hearing.

Armstrong commended Lacey’s widow, Nabila, for her strength and wished her the best going forward.

“It’s going to be hard, obviously, raising your children on your own,” the judge said, calling Lacey’s death “the hugest loss.”

Comments | More in The Blotter, Traffic & Transit | Topics: DUI, King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, King County Superior Court

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