Everett man who fled scene of hit-and-run fatality sentenced

“I just panicked is all,” said Thomas Rock, who was sentenced to 3 years and 5 months in prison.

EVERETT — An Everett man who tried to hide that he killed a woman in a hit and run was sentenced Friday to 3 years and 5 months in prison.

Thomas Michael Rock, 51, pleaded guilty earlier in October in Snohomish County Superior Court.

Prosecutors say Rock was driving a Dodge Caravan in Everett’s Silver Lake neighborhood on Sept. 8, 2018, when he swerved around another car and hit a woman crossing the street. Tracy Gjernes, of Everett, was propelled about 100 feet on the pavement and likely died instantly, according to the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office. She was 59.

Rock kept driving, despite another driver “frantically honking his horn,” prosecutors wrote. Afterward, he replaced parts on his vehicle to hide the damage, and told others he thought he hit a deer, according to charging documents.

He told one friend he may have hit a person, but didn’t think they were hurt. The friend told his mother about the conversation, and she relayed the message to a family member, who also happened to be a Lake Stevens police officer. A vehicle and suspect description was broadcasted to police in the area.

Rock was arrested on Sept. 26, 2018, after a friend of his called an Everett detective, saying they were meeting at a 7-Eleven in Arlington.

At Friday’s sentencing hearing, public defender Robert O’Neal initially said the defendant wouldn’t be addressing the court, explaining there “really are no adequate words” for what took place.

Rock, who had been occasionally wiping his eyes with Kleenex, said he did want to speak.

“I just want to apologize,” he said. “It was just 5 seconds, is all this was. Five seconds and everyone’s life would be normal.”

Rock began weeping, and his voice became higher as he continued to speak, to the point that the court reporter had to ask him to repeat what he said.

“I just panicked is all,” he said about his decision to leave the scene. “I just panicked and I was scared. I didn’t mean for this to happen. I hope (Gjernes’ family) can forgive me.”

Judge Edirin Okoloko said Rock would have to live with the consequences of his actions.

“The decision to leave the scene was a poor one, and a cold one,” Okoloko said.

Zachariah Bryan: 425-339-3431; zbryan@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @zachariahtb.

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