Aaron Blanchard becomes emotional while speaking to the court during his sentencing at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Wednesday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Aaron Blanchard becomes emotional while speaking to the court during his sentencing at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Wednesday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

4 years in prison for driver who killed Snohomish motorcyclist

Aaron Blanchard’s sentence was well above state sentencing guidelines. The crash killed Brandon Elias in 2019.

LAKE STEVENS — Brandon Elias was supposed to get married last year in Granite Falls.

But in the summer of 2019, he was killed while riding his motorcycle east of Lake Stevens.

Aaron Wade Blanchard, now 46, was sentenced Wednesday to four years behind bars for hitting and killing Elias. The defendant pleaded guilty last week to vehicular homicide with disregard for the safety of others.

“As a family, we’ve gone through hell and back since Brandon’s death,” Elias’ mother Leah Mctear said in court. “For me, I’ve been torn between being a parent and being there to support the other children through this awful event while I ache for my son.”

“I really find myself smothered with grief and devastation,” the mother added.

Appearing in court via video, Mctear read statements from family members mourning Elias. His sister Stephanie Mctear addressed Blanchard, telling him “you chose this for yourself and you need to pay the price.”

Brandon Elias at age 31, showing off his new motorcycle, a Baja Phoenix 250. (Family photo)

Brandon Elias at age 31, showing off his new motorcycle, a Baja Phoenix 250. (Family photo)

“He will never be a father, husband or an uncle,” she said. “Brandon doesn’t get the choice that I have, that you have had, Mr. Blanchard. … He had his whole life ahead of him.”

Wearing a black zip-up fleece on top of a white dress shirt, Blanchard sobbed as he told the victim’s family he was sorry.

“I apologize to the family for what I’ve done,” he said in court. “I think about it all the time. It never goes away. That night will be my sentence for life. And there’s nothing that I can say or do that can bring him back, or to make that family feel any different toward me, and all I ask is for forgiveness.”

Blanchard’s sentence was more than twice the high end of the state sentencing guidelines, which call for 15 to 20 months. Prosecutors and the defense agreed on the prison term.

A mother and daughter were reportedly driving just after midnight on July 5, 2019, near the 2900 block of Newberg Road. Behind them, Blanchard was behind the wheel of a pickup, according to the charges in Snohomish County Superior Court.

The narrow road has one lane in each direction, with a double-yellow line separating them.

As the mother and daughter rounded a downhill curve, they witnessed the pickup cross the center line into northbound traffic. Blanchard, of Snohomish, struck the motorcycle head on. The collision pushed the Baja Phoenix 250 and its rider, Elias, also of Snohomish, almost 130 feet back up the hill.

Elias died from a severed spinal cord and a ruptured aortic artery, the Snohomish County Medical Examiner determined. He was 31.

Family members and friends of Brandon Elias react during a videoconference while listening to victim impact statements during Aaron Blanchard’s sentencing on Wednesday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Family members and friends of Brandon Elias react during a videoconference while listening to victim impact statements during Aaron Blanchard’s sentencing on Wednesday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Witnesses told police they ran to help Elias. One reported hearing his final heartbeats. Another reported talking to Blanchard. The defendant acknowledged he’d been drinking and that he was going to prison, the witness told police.

Leah Mctear said her son died about 3 miles from her family’s home. Sometimes she takes other routes so she can avoid the pain of revisiting that road.

When police arrived, Blanchard declined to take sobriety tests, saying he would fail, according to the charges. A sample taken just before 6 a.m. showed a blood-alcohol level of 0.059, as well as 1.8 nanograms per liter of active THC. Alcohol dissipates at 0.015 grams per hour in the human body, deputy prosecutor Tobin Darrow wrote in court documents, citing expert testimony he has heard in the past. For THC, the dissipation rate varies from person to person, he wrote.

Blanchard hasn’t had a drop of alcohol since the crash, his defense attorney Lennard Nahajski told Superior Court Judge Karen Moore. He has enrolled in an alcohol treatment program.

Aaron Blanchard hugs his wife before going into custody after his sentencing at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Wednesday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Aaron Blanchard hugs his wife before going into custody after his sentencing at the Snohomish County Courthouse on Wednesday in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Before handing down the sentence, Moore acknowledged her ruling can’t fill the holes in the hearts of Elias’ relatives.

She told Blanchard she hopes he thinks about the choices he made.

“All too often, people don’t stop and think about the effect of their decisions on others,” the judge said. “And it’s not just a pebble in a pond of water this time. It was more like a boulder in a mud puddle. And as you recognized, everyone’s life has changed.”

Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; jake.goldstein-street@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.

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