April 11, 2013 at 9:00 AM
Suspect in deadly Wedgwood crash pleads not guilty
Mark W. Mullan, the Seattle man accused of driving drunk when he struck a family of four in Wedgwood last month, killing two, pleaded not guilty this morning to two counts of vehicular homicide and other charges.
Mullan, 50, who has multiple arrests for driving under the influence, is also charged with two counts of vehicular assault and one count of reckless driving. He is being held in the King County Jail in lieu of $2.5 million bail.
Mullan faces a sentence range of 15 to 19 ½ years in prison if he’s convicted as charged, but prosecutors are pushing for a longer sentence.
Seattle police say on March 25, Mullan drove his pickup into a family on an afternoon walk, killing Judy and Dennis Schulte of Kokomo, Ind., and injuring their daughter-in-law and grandson. Karina Ulriksen-Schulte, 34, and her infant son, Elias, are in stable condition at Harborview Medical Center. The two face a long recovery, according to Harborview.
They “are continuing to improve, luckily,” Senior Deputy Prosecutor Amy Freedheim said this morning outside the courtroom.
Charging documents say Ulriksen-Schulte was carrying the baby in a sling carrier and crossing Northeast 75th Street with her in-laws when she saw Mullan’s pickup approaching. She tried to help her in-laws out of the way when the group was struck about 11 to 12 feet from the curb, the documents allege.
Court documents indicate that Mullan — who was driving on a suspended license — smelled of alcohol, failed field sobriety tests and had a preliminary breath-alcohol level of 0.22 percent, nearly three times the state’s legal limit of 0.08 percent. Mullan told officers at the scene that he had had one drink earlier and that he hadn’t seen the pedestrians because the sun was in his eyes, charges allege. He told police he didn’t apply his brakes until he “felt the bump” of striking the pedestrians.
Police say he was driving 30 to 40 mph in a zone with a posted 30 mph speed limit.
This morning, Freedheim also added aggravators to the two vehicular-assault charges, saying the injuries suffered by Ulriksen-Schulte and her infant son exceed the bodily harm standard required to prove the elements of the crime of vehicular assault.
If Mullan is convicted, a judge could potentially go above the standard sentence range on those two charges, she said. But since most prison sentences are served concurrently for multiple charges, the aggravators, if proven, may not add any additional time to Mullan’s sentence.
The maximum prison term for vehicular assault is 10 years.
Prior to June 7, 2012, the maximum penalty for vehicular homicide for someone without a prior criminal history was just under 3 ½ years. Legislation that went into effect last year increased the standard sentence, making punishment for the crime comparable to that for first-degree manslaughter.
Lawmakers are considering tightening up the state’s laws against driving under the influence as a result of the accident and another last week that resulted in the death of motorist Morgan Fick Williams.
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The Today File is a general news blog featuring real-time coverage of Seattle and the Northwest. It is reported by the news staff of The Seattle Times and edited by Assistant Metro Editor Nick Provenza.
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