EVERETT — Haylee Felcker was only 5 but remembers the rain, the tears and a large family hug at her cousin’s funeral.
That was more than 15 years ago. Matt Rubio was just 20 when he was killed by a wrong-way drunken driver on Highway 9.
On Sunday, there were more tears after eerily similar circumstances. And on Monday there was another embrace of extended family, this one outside Everett District Court.
Felcker’s Great Uncle Paulo A. “Tony” Rubio — Matt’s father — died early Sunday morning in what police suspect was another drunken-driving crash. He was 56. The Snohomish County Medical Examiner said Rubio died of blunt-force injuries.
“I lost my best friend,” Felcker said outside the courtroom where the suspect appeared by video feed for a bail hearing.
“It broke my heart,” she said. “It broke my family’s heart.”
Tony Rubio had finished his graveyard shift at Boeing and was a few blocks from his Everett home. He was driving westbound on Madison Street and crossing through the Evergreen Way intersection with a green light, according to court papers. The crash occurred just before 6:15 a.m. when a driver reportedly ran a red light and smashed into Rubio’s pickup.
The impact ripped the pickup in half. Medics attempted CPR, but Rubio died at the scene.
Alejandro Barajas, 29, also of Everett, was arrested for investigation of vehicular homicide. He’s accused of blowing through a red light in a Chevy Tahoe before crashing into Rubio’s pickup truck. Barajas also is accused of running from the crash scene. Bail was set at $100,000 on Monday afternoon.
Officers detected the odor of alcohol on the suspect’s breath, according to court papers. A blood sample was taken but no blood-alcohol level results were included in initial court papers. Barajas has a 2010 conviction for drunken driving.
The suspect was arrested when he was found walking along Dogwood Lane, more than a mile from the crash scene.
Tony Rubio grew up in Everett and was the ninth of 10 children, five boys and five girls. He worked in the tool room at Boeing, checking out equipment to Machinists. He was a longtime Seahawks ticket holder and often organized family holiday celebrations. He liked building birdhouses and spending time by bonfires listening to waves crash against the rocks on the beach in Mukilteo.
He was getting close to turning 18 when he met his future wife, Tiffeny, who was two years younger.
She said her husband was “a multitasker and a half” who frequented yard sales and was planning to open his own second-hand store in Everett. Some of his potential merchandise was in the pickup at the time of the crash, she said.
With sadness-tinged laughter, she remembers the holiday parties they would put on. Halloween typically would have a theme: she as the Wicked Witch of the West and he as the Scarecrow one year and Cowardly Lion another. He wasn’t one to scrimp on the candy. Trick-or-Treaters could expect a big chocolate bar at the Rubio house.
Tony and Tiffeny Rubio lost their son Matt on Aug. 29, 2004. Matt Rubio was a volunteer at Christmas House, an Everett-based organization that provides holiday gifts to needy families. After his death, there were toy and coat drives in his memory.
Tiffeny Rubio fondly recalls how her husband and son would fill up dozens of plastic eggs for annual Easter Egg hunts.
“I am at a loss for words,” she said Monday evening. “… It’s unreal to me.”
The Lynnwood woman who caused Matt’s death was given a 3½-year prison sentence, which was the maximum possible penalty at the time. She had been driving in the wrong lane for miles, had no auto insurance, and her blood-alcohol level tested at more than twice the legal limit.
In an interview with The Daily Herald in 2005, Tony Rubio pushed for longer sentences for drunken drivers.
“You get a phone call like the one we got, people should be punished,” he said at the time. “There’s no excuse for any of it.”
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; firstname.lastname@example.org.