By Scott North, Herald Writer
EVERETT — A Snohomish man who killed four people in a drunken-driving crash on Highway 9 was sentenced to eight years in prison Tuesday.
Matthew McDonald, 28, contributed to making Nov. 29 “a horrible day in Western Washington,” Snohomish County Superior Court Judge David Kurtz said.
That morning, four police officers were shot dead in a Pierce County coffee shop.
That evening, after a day of drinking, McDonald climbed behind the wheel of a Ford Explorer. He blasted through a stop sign near Marysville and crashed broadside into another vehicle.
Killed were two Clearview couples: Brad and Melissa Agerup and Thomas and Hilda Woods. The Agerups and the Woodses were friends and neighbors returning home from planning a birthday party.
Although different, the two tragedies that Sunday after Thanksgiving left communities and loved ones reeling with grief, Kurtz said.
The judge recalled how witnesses to the crash scene spoke of watching McDonald react with horror, asking “My God, what have I done?”
“Indeed,” the judge said. “The short answer is the defendant killed four wonderful people and thoroughly devastated two fine families,” and hurt those he loved, as well.
McDonald in January pleaded guilty to four counts of vehicular homicide. On Tuesday, he stood in front of a courtroom packed with tearful relatives and friends of the drunken driving crash victims.
He said he is to blame for a ‘‘hideous tragedy,” and vowed to spend his life trying to make amends.
“I never thought in a million years I would have done something so horrible,” he said.
McDonald blinked back tears and suppressed sobs as the children of the people he killed spoke of family camping trips that will never again happen; of hugs, laughter and dancing that are now just memories; of gazing into the stands during a soccer match, and instead of spotting a proud parent, seeing only the void.
“So much has been lost because of one choice, one bad choice,” said Kaitlyn Agerup, one of two teenage daughters who were orphaned by the crash. Her father, Brad Agerup had been a longtime athletic trainer and teacher at Mariner High School. Among other things, he focused on teaching young people not to drink and drive.
McDonald can honor her father’s memory by trying to carry on that work after prison, Kaitlyn Agerup said.
The Woodses’ three grown daughters made sure Kurtz knew of their loss.
Four good people were loved and respected in their community; now there are two crosses along a highway, marking the scene of a tragedy, said Debbie Howell, the Woodses’ eldest child.
She urged the judge to impose the maximum sentence, as a message to others who may drink and drive.
“What leniency did you give our family?’ she asked McDonald.
Before Nov. 29, the defendant had never been in trouble, not even getting traffic tickets, the court was told. Still, Kurtz said the crime warranted a tough sanction. His sentence for McDonald was just six months shy of the top punishment allowed under state guidelines.
In addition to prison time, Kurtz sentenced McDonald to a writing assignment.
On the anniversary of his crime, on his last year behind bars, McDonald must write a letter that will become part of the court file.
In the letter, Kurtz said he expects to read how McDonald plans to atone.
Scott North: 425-339-3431, email@example.com