EVERETT — Since the head-on crash last year with a Seattle man on the run from police, a Camano Island couple has had to adjust to a different life.
After more than a year of physical therapy, neither has fully healed, Vicki Strickfaden, 73, wrote in a victim impact statement submitted in court. She experiences limited mobility in her left shoulder, elbow and right foot. She has to use a “complicated brace” to walk with tolerable pain, and can’t walk very far or climb stairs. Her partner, Larry Austin, 71, who suffered a broken foot, still uses a walker. They need help from friends and family for simple chores.
Strickfaden wrote that at this point in her recovery, she’ll be as good as she’ll ever be.
“We are living a new ‘normal’ now, which is physically and mentally challenging,” she wrote. “… Needless to say, our lives will most likely never be the same thanks to an accident caused by a careless criminal who has no empathy for those he injured.”
Zachary Kier, 28, was sentenced Wednesday in Snohomish County Superior Court to 6 years and 6 months in prison — slightly above a recommendation reached by the deputy prosecutor and public defender. He pleaded guilty in October to two counts of vehicular assault and attempting to elude a police vehicle.
As he was being chased by Marysville police early the morning of Aug. 3, 2019, Kier told the woman and man riding with him in the Jeep Cherokee that they’d get away.
“Trust me,” he said, according to charging papers. He claimed police wouldn’t get close enough to see the license plates.
He drove more than double the 35 mph speed limit on State Avenue, blew through a red light at 40 mph and crossed into the oncoming lanes of Quil Ceda Boulevard, Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Tobin Darrow wrote.
Then Kier slammed head-on with a Chrysler 300 at a roundabout.
One of the passengers said Kier didn’t even attempt to swerve out of the way. Later, outside the courtroom, Darrow remarked that it appeared Kier was playing a game of chicken with the other car, to make police stop chasing him.
After the collision, Kier ran into the woods, leaving his passengers as well as Strickfaden and Austin behind in the wreckage, despite their screams.
The crash left massive damage to both vehicles. An injured passenger in the Jeep remained in a coma for a month, according to the charges. He was transferred to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle with fractured vertebrae. All his ribs were broken and his internal organs were crushed.
The other passenger in the Jeep was Kier’s girlfriend, 36. She reluctantly identified him as the driver, according to the charges.
Strickfaden suffered shattered bones and fractures to her ribs, neck and ankle in the Chrysler. Doctors used “plates, screws and wires” in surgery. She spent two weeks at Harborview, then a month in a rehab center in Arlington. Austin had a severely sprained ankle and severe lower back pain.
Kier did get away, for about three months. Charging papers say in late August, police prepared to serve a warrant on an Auburn home where he’d been staying. But before officers could execute the warrant, he was gone.
He was found in November 2019, during a stolen property sting in King County. He was with his girlfriend, who was trying to sell a stolen kitchen blender through Facebook Marketplace. When she arrived to make the sale, Kier was in the passenger seat. Officers took him into custody.
In a sentencing memorandum, public defender Laura Martin wrote of Kier’s upbringing: how his parents split due to his mother’s drug addiction, and his own abuse of alcohol and marijuana, then OxyContin and heroin. Kier’s addiction turned him to crimes such as forgery and stealing — “anything that would help him feed his habit” — resulting in him getting charged with “one felony after another.” He participated in but couldn’t finish King County’s drug court program. He went to prison. When he got out, he worked as a carpenter apprentice, until he was caught with a stolen car. His wife got cancer. He started using again.
Court records show Kier has a record of forgery, felony theft, identity theft, illicit drug possession, motor vehicle theft and possession of a stolen vehicle. He’s been convicted of driving with a suspended license four times in the past decade, racing and driving under the influence.
“When Mr. Kier was driving that night, he was high and wasn’t thinking clearly,” Martin wrote. “… When he saw a police officer on the road that night, he made the first of many horrible choices — he ran.”
He crashed, then made the “next very poor decision” and ran again, Martin wrote.
In her victim impact statement, Strickfaden wrote of the lifelong suffering she and Austin must now endure. She remarked on Kier’s callousness, as he left both them and his passengers behind.
“What kind of monster is he?” she wrote.