Woman sentenced to nearly 22 years for fatal crash
Now Collins will spend the next two decades in prison for her latest and most serious offense -- murder. Collins led Lynnwood police on a reckless, drug-fueled chase May 24 that ended in a deadly crash.
Jerry Robert Bennett, 72, was driving through a Mountlake Terrace intersection when Collins, 42, slammed into his van as she tried to outmaneuver police. Prosecutors alleged Collins, whose street name is "Shellshock," was high on cocaine. There also were warrants for her arrest.
Bennett suffered fatal head injuries. He died at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
A Snohomish County judge was told on Thursday that no one would be speaking on Bennett's behalf. Prosecutors were unable to locate any relatives.
"Mr. Bennett doesn't have any kin," deputy prosecutor Tobin Darrow said.
Collins pleaded guilty earlier this month to second-degree murder. She was charged under the theory that she was attempting to elude police, a felony crime, when she caused Bennett's death. She faced a maximum of nearly 23 years in prison.
Her attorney on Thursday asked the judge to show Collins leniency and give her a low-end sentence -- about 14 1/2 years. Paul Thompson, a public defender, pointed out that Collins quickly pleaded guilty and spared the state the expense of a trial.
"I just want to take responsibility," Collins told the judge.
Darrow asked for a mid-range sentence of 20 years.
Superior Court Judge Bruce Weiss gave Collins credit for bringing a quick resolution to the case but said he couldn't overlook her extensive, "abysmal" criminal history, dating back decades. He pointed out that Collins already had a vehicular assault conviction for hurting someone while she was behind the wheel. She was drunk in 2004 when she crossed a centerline and struck an oncoming vehicle. She also has more than a dozen convictions for driving with a suspended or revoked license.
Weiss sentenced Collins to nearly 22 years in prison.
He called Bennett's death senseless. Weiss said it was fortunate that there weren't more people injured by Collins' reckless behavior.
Lynnwood police tried to stop Collins after discovering that she and her passenger both were wanted on warrants. The two-mile chase began around Highway 99 and 196th Street SW in Lynnwood.
A camera mounted on the dashboard of an officer's unmarked car captured the chase. The bouncing van is seen swerving into oncoming traffic, running red lights and nearly striking several vehicles.
Finally, Collins ran the light at 212th Street and 44th Avenue W. and smashed into Bennett's van. She was driving 75 mph seconds before the crash.
The impact sent the two vans spinning out of control. Bennett's van was propelled about 180 feet and landed on a sidewalk. The other van careened into a pole.
Collins' passenger, 53, broke his arm in the crash. He told police he tried to get the woman to stop. Collins was not seriously hurt.
Collins was the second person charged with murder this year for a fatal crash.
Joseph Strange is accused of leading police on a more than 10-mile chase from Lynnwood to Everett before he plowed into Rachael Kamin, a nurse on her way home from work.
Kamin, the mother of two, suffered fatal head injuries.
Strange, 33, is charged with first-degree murder because he allegedly caused Kamin's death "under circumstances manifesting an extreme indifference to human life."
Prosecutors allege that Strange rammed a police patrol car and another vehicle before leading officers on a high-speed chase. His flight from the cops came to an end only after Strange crashed into Kamin's car in a north Everett intersection. He is scheduled to go to trial later this year.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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