By Diana Hefley Herald Writer
EVERETT — Terrence Olesen had plenty of opportunities to do the right thing on June 9, 2012.
Instead, he killed a young man and severely injured two others on a dark Marysville road.
On Thursday, Olesen was sentenced to 12 years for the choices he made the night he drove drunk and ran down Shane Santos, Alex Ryan and Jerad Clawson. He left the three best friends lying on the road, never calling for help. Police caught up with Olesen after he crashed into a tree. He asked the officer if what he did was considered vehicular homicide.
Olesen, 28, offered little in the way of an apology on Thursday to the people whose lives will never be the same because he, a repeat drunken driver, got behind the wheel of a car when his blood alcohol was three times the legal limit.
“I’m sorry. I don’t know. I can’t even think of anything to say right now,” Olesen said.
His apology seemed hollow to Clawson and his mother, Sherri William.
Clawson, 22, suffered multiple broken bones. He spent a month in the hospital. He lost a best friend and another will never be the same because of a traumatic brain injury.
He and his mom believe that Olesen made a series of bad choices the night he crashed into the three men. He had been drinking vodka all afternoon, then decided to drive to the Home Plate Tavern in Marysville.
He slugged down two 24-ounce beers before he got into a fight. Bar patrons escorted him to his car and an employee offered to call him a cab. Olesen refused and drove off with his buddy.
“Obviously if he had money for drinks, he had money for a taxi,” Clawson said.
Olesen ended up driving erratically for miles. Passing cars pulled off the road to avoid being hit.
Santos, Ryan and Clawson were walking on the shoulder of Shoultes Road when they were struck. Olesen stopped his car only long enough for his passenger to jump out and see the injured men, one dying, lying on the road. The pair sped off, but their car ran into a tree.
Santos, 18, died at the scene. His family and friends filled the courtroom on Thursday. Many wore T-shirts with a clear message: “Don’t Drink and Drive.”
Ryan and Clawson spent months in hospitals and rehabilitation facilities. They have no memories of the accident. All they have are memories of their friend, whose nickname was “Hugz.”
It is hard for them to understand how Olesen could just leave them there to die.
The defendant wasn’t concerned about anyone else. He just wanted to get away, Snohomish County Superior Court Judge George Bowden said.
“Here the defendant’s conduct was far more than a poor choice or impaired judgement,” the judge said.
Olesen faced up to 15 years in prison. Under the plea agreement, prosecutors agreed to recommend a 12-year term.
Bowden went along with the recommended sentence, saying that for someone who has never been to prison, a dozen years is a “long, long time.” He also said he didn’t think a few more years, all at a cost to taxpayers, would make anyone safer. Either 12 years in prison is a deterrent or it isn’t, Bowden said.
He also ordered Olesen to pay more than $370,000 in restitution, mainly medical expenses for Clawson and Ryan. He also must undergo an evaluation for his alcoholism.
Snohomish County prosecutor Tobin Darrow noted that Olesen was prosecuted under new legislation creating stiffer penalties for drunken drivers. The new law, which went into effect two days before the crash, added about five years to Olesen’s sentence. He also had two years tacked on because he had an earlier drunken driving case.
Olesen was convicted in 2007 of DUI. His license was suspended, but he continued to drive. He was cited three times in 2008 for driving with a suspended license. There is some evidence that he didn’t have insurance when he hit the three young men.
The men’s family and friends asked the judge to give Olesen a lengthier sentence, to send a message to people who drink and drive.
“Mr. Olesen was shown leniency in the past, and this is what happened,” LaKrista Vantrece said.
Her brother, Alex Ryan, was left with a traumatic brain injury. His arms and legs also were broken. Ryan, 22, attended Thursday’s hearing in a wheelchair. He wears a helmet because a piece of bone is still missing from his skull. He has undergone numerous surgeries. More are in his future.
“He can’t even go to the bathroom by himself all because of the decisions Mr. Olesen made,” Vantrece said. “He killed Shane Santos and injured those other two boys as sure as he put a gun to their heads and pulled the trigger… .”
Others bear some responsibility too, Clawson said after Thursday’s hearing. He believes the bar employee should have called police after Olesen refused the taxi ride.
The state Liquor Control Board opened an investigation into the Home Plate Tavern in connection with the June 9, 2012 incident. Agents were unable to find sufficient evidence to prove that the bartender knew that Olesen was intoxicated when served, said Thomas Dixon, an enforcement captain with the board. The bar was issued a written warning, advising employees that it is against the law to serve alcohol to anyone who appears drunk.
The tavern was investigated again after the Jan. 31 death of a Marysville man. He had been drinking at the bar before he rolled his car in Lynnwood on a ramp from I-5 to I-405. No action was taken against the bar. Again agents were unable to prove that the bartender ignored signs that the man was intoxicated.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.