Lake Stevens woman blames ‘exhaustion’ in fatal hit and run

Jennifer Favorite apologized to the victim’s family before being sentenced, claiming she was not aware she hit James Rubio, 64.

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ARLINGTON — “Pure exhaustion” rooted in fentanyl addiction caused Jennifer Favorite to fatally strike a man with her car in the middle of the night, knocking him 75 feet off the road, her defense argued Wednesday.

The Lake Stevens woman reportedly told investigators she thought she hit a construction barrel, so she’d driven away.

In June, Favorite pleaded guilty to charges of a hit and run in an accidental death.

On Wednesday, Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Jennifer Langbehn sentenced Favorite to 18 months in prison and 18 months in community custody. It’s known as a Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative, in which defendants must seek drug treatment but get their time behind bars reduced.

“I think what you are acknowledging, and what is clear to me, is that your substance use disorder clearly caused the accident that happened that day,” Langbehn said to Favorite. “Well, it may not have been directly before you got in the car, it is quite clear to me that your use of fentanyl impacted your ability to make decisions, to be awake and alert and to safely operate a vehicle.”

The Lake Stevens woman had no prior felony convictions.

Around 8 p.m. March 7, Favorite was driving east on 172nd Street NE in Arlington with her infant daughter in the back seat, the charges say. It was reportedly her son’s birthday, and she had only gotten “a couple hours” of sleep planning his party.

Favorite reportedly fell asleep at the wheel when she was awoken by a loud noise, she told investigators. She looked back at her daughter and kept driving. She did not call the police at the time.

The defendant texted her friend later, saying the incident was a “wake-up call” to get sober, the defense wrote.

“Could’ve killed my baby or someone else,” Favorite reportedly texted. “I hadn’t even smoked any blues, it was pure exhaustion.”

Hours later, witnesses found a man, later identified as James Rubio, face down and “crumpled up” without a pulse, the charges say. He was taken to Providence Medical Regional Everett, where he later died. He was 64.

Investigators did not have any suspects.

But 10 days later, Arlington police received a tip: An insurance agent told police she was contacted on March 8 by a customer who reported his wife was in a collision near the new Amazon fulfillment center in Arlington. Favorite reportedly said she was reaching her daughter’s iPad when she struck a “construction barrel” with her car.

On March 21, detectives found the suspect in her home garage, according to the report. A Toyota Highlander was parked in the garage with blankets covering it. There was damage to the front right headlight, fender and windshield.

On March 31, police arrested Favorite.

Favorite addressed the court Wednesday with a statement to the victim’s family.

“I hope Mr. Rubio’s family will understand I was not attempting to hide anything, as I was not aware that I had hit Mr. Rubio,” Favorite said in tears. “I replay that moment over and over, searching my brain to see how I could have not known, and have no answers. I wish I did.”

Rubio was survived by four kids, nine siblings and 15 grandkids. This is the third hit-and-run death in his family, according to statements from loved ones.

His family members were present in the courtroom Wednesday.

“You’re not the victim,” Rubio’s sister said in a statement in court. “You’re the perpetrator, you’re the monster, you’re the coward.”

Maya Tizon: 425-339-3434; maya.tizon@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @mayatizon.

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