Jurors Proclaim ‘Guilty’ to Seven Charges
With seven criminal charges to consider, 12 jurors took less than four hours to unify consent and declare their verdict on March 3. “Guilty” was proclaimed seven times to seven charges: four vehicular homicides while driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, one vehicular assault under DUI, one aggravated assault resulting in substantial bodily harm, and one reckless driving defined as “willful and wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.”
More than two years of court delays, omnibus hearings, and eight trial start dates preceded opening statements in the case of State of Washington vs. Nicholas Windsor Anderson. Anderson, age 40, has been incarcerated since his arrest on November 20, 2014, nearly a month after fleeing to Port Angeles upon discharge from Harborview Medical Center. According to charging papers, he is a convicted felon and repeat offender with DUI convictions. His DUI test in this case was recorded at .19, more than twice the legal threshold of .08. He will now be released to the Department of Corrections and detained at Washington Corrections Center in Shelton until sentencing. A standard sentencing range is 258 to 328 months but Prosecutor Amy Freedheim, as reported by KOMO TV, “will ask for an exceptional sentence of 460 months” (38.3 years). Sentencing by Judge Cheryl Carey is scheduled for Friday, March 31 at 9:30 a.m., Kent Regional Justice Center.
On October 25, 2014 Anderson was driving a 1995 Nissan 300ZX from Enumclaw to Auburn. A deputy, who had turned around in pursuit of the speeding vehicle clocked the car at above 90 mph. Anderson then moved into the oncoming lane in a no passing zone and the officer ceased pursuit and called the Auburn Police Department. The Nissan’s timeframe from starting point to the crash site was one half the normal 13 minutes it would take at the posted speed limit. The two-door vehicle eventually left the road at a speed past critical. “Critical” was determined as below the 77 mph needed to negotiate that portion of Auburn Way South, posted at 35 mph.
The car hit the road’s curb and slammed into two power boxes that housed thick underground wiring. It unanchored two guy wires stabilizing a power pole and then literally uprooted and toppled a tree 18 inches in diameter. According to a traffic collision investigator, “With tin snips and four minutes of time, one could have finished cutting this car completely in half – two pieces,” from the front passenger side to behind the driver seat. The only piece of the interior that remained intact was the driver’s seat. The driver airbag tested positive for the defendant’s saliva. The vehicle’s undercarriage and floorboard was totally detached from the car’s body; the horizontal bar under the passenger side of the car stood vertically at the crash site. Testimony from a forensic expert, medical examiner, and a crash expert each described the crash in terms such as “the most destructive to car and occupants ever seen” or “catastrophic as seen only at a plane or train crash.”
The defendant did not testify in his own behalf. A psychiatrist called to the stand for the defense concluded that Anderson’s head injuries made him “at risk for providing inaccurate information.” According to testimony, Anderson indentified himself as the driver to the first crash site responders, to police at Harborview, and to the owner of the vehicle. The psychiatrist replied to the prosecution’s counter questioning that his testimony for the defense was not intended to make a diagnosis of brain injury, that he wasn’t implying that Anderson’s statements at the crash site were “made up,” and that there was no brain injury diagnoses made at Harborview or in the hospital’s discharge papers. During their deliberations, the jurors wanted to listen for a second time to a brief portion of the crash site audio/video taping. They wanted to hear Anderson’s response to the question of who was driving. In the muffled audio version, Anderson had replied, “I was driving.”
Four passengers, Suzanne McCay, age 29, of Ravensdale, Caleb Graham, age 23 of Enumclaw, Andy Tedford, age 31, of Maple Valley, and Rehlein Stone, age 21, of Auburn died within seconds and one passenger, James Vaccaro, age 23, sustained substantial brain injury which would “permanently alter his life.” Vaccaro could recall only a couple specific details regarding the crash. He did remember some of the passenger seating arrangements. Just one of the passengers had a personal association with the driver.
Victims’ family and friends who wish to relay personal concerns and statements with regard to sentencing may, in the next two weeks, address Judge Cheryl Carey. Shorts statements or short video regarding the impact on personal and family loss can be directed to Karen Kunde, victim advocate, at firstname.lastname@example.org.