EVERETT — Patrick Wallace and his best friend took the day off of work to move into their first apartment. A long day of moving boxes wrapped up with a trip to a store to grab a garbage can.
That’s when Wallace, 19, realized he’d left his bed sheets and shampoo at his mom’s Snohomish-area home. The teens were so excited about their new place they hugged before Wallace headed out the door to retrieve his stuff.
He never spent a night in his new place. A drunken driver ran a red light on Highway 9, plowing into Wallace’s Honda Civic. The teen died May 21, 2016, in his car, just a year after graduating from Snohomish High School.
Wallace was a gentle, genuine and kind young man, his family and friends said. He could make you laugh uncontrollably, said his best friend, Zachary Garcia. Wallace was the kind of guy who made the new kid in school feel welcome and seemed incapable of getting mad at anyone. The jokes he told sitting across from his grandfather playing chess are precious memories now.
“Not a day goes by without thinking about the tragedy of his death and remembering the goodness he brought to all who knew him,” his grandparents wrote. “It’s that goodness, straight from his heart, that made everyone who knew him feel better about life.”
The man who took Wallace’s life was sentenced Wednesday to 6½ years in prison. Richard Peck, 34, pleaded guilty last month to vehicular homicide.
Two hours after the deadly crash, Peck’s blood-alcohol was more than twice the legal limit. He also tested positive for marijuana. Police on scene reported that Peck was so drunk they could smell alcohol on him from five feet away.
His eyes were bloodshot and watery. He stumbled when he walked, and his speech was slurred. Peck also seemed oblivious to the devastation he’d caused. He circled Wallace’s mangled car, asking, “Where’s the (expletive) driver?” according to one witness.
Peck later told officers that Wallace was to blame. The teen pulled out in front of him, Peck said.
Snohomish County sheriff’s detectives proved that story wrong. Peck’s light was red for 7.19 seconds prior to impact. He was going 55 mph when he hit Wallace.
Detectives determined that given the friction of the roadway and speed of Peck’s Cherokee, he had twice the minimum distance needed to safely stop his Jeep when the light turned red. There was no sign that Peck ever braked before colliding with the Honda.
One driver, in the lane next to Wallace, had braked abruptly after realizing that Peck wasn’t stopping for the red light. His vehicle may have blocked Wallace’s view.
Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Tobin Darrow agreed to recommend a low-end sentence in exchange for Peck’s guilty plea. The defendant, a combat military veteran, didn’t have any prior felony convictions. Peck faced up to 8½ years in prison.
On Wednesday, he read from a lengthy statement, saying he will always regret his decision to drive that night. He said he and his wife had gone out with friends. The group had rented a limousine for their trip to Seattle. He said he wasn’t planning to drink and stopped a couple of hours before the crash. He also expected that the limo would take them home. It didn’t work out and Peck was headed to his Lake Roesiger-area home from Lake Stevens.
“I felt safe to go home. I wish I could take it back,” he said. “Sometimes there are no second chances.”
Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Ellen Fair said she also had a wish — anyone who has ever contemplated drinking and driving could hear what she was hearing from Wallace’s family and friends and from the defendant and his family.
Day after day, people make the wrong decision, she said. They think they are safe to drive home. They think they haven’t had too much to drink, the judge said. The defendant didn’t set out to kill someone but he “made a terrible, terrible decision on the night in question. He took a life.”
The judge said she believes that Peck is consumed with regret, “but regret cannot bring Patrick back.”
She encouraged Peck to share his story with others. He has a responsibility to try to make amends.
Wallace’s family had hoped the judge would sentence Peck to the maximum sentence. They packed the courtroom Wednesday, wearing pins bearing Wallace’s photograph. His life was just starting, his grandmother wrote. All their heartache could have been avoided.
“He was something this world needed,” Garcia said Wednesday. “Even if you just met him once, you’d go ‘Wow. This is one good dude.’ ”
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.