MARYSVILLE — A judge sentenced an impaired driver to 10 years in prison Monday for running over and killing his stepmother, Debra Sue Nelson, near Marysville.
Tyler Nelson, 33, pleaded guilty in September to vehicular homicide while under the influence, and theft of a motor vehicle for his actions on Valentine’s Day 2018.
That morning at 1 a.m., Tyler Nelson showed up at his stepmother’s home because he needed gas. He was “aggressive and confrontational,” but left when asked, according to charging papers.
An hour later, a Tulalip tribal police officer tried to stop a 1996 Honda that blew through a stop sign at 60 mph or more, then another stop sign and a stop light — fast enough that the officer lost sight of the car. Moments later, the Honda crashed on a barrier at a freeway on-ramp, and Marysville police witnessed a man running from the scene.
“Though the driver was not apprehended at that time, visual descriptions by the Marysville officers matched that of the defendant,” according to the charges.
In the meantime, Debra Nelson, 53, dropped her husband off at work around 4:30 a.m., in a 2008 Honda Accord.
What happened next is unclear. Tyler Nelson made conflicting statements to friends, according to court papers.
Apparently the stepson got into an argument with his stepmother. Nelson reportedly told acquaintances his stepmother was driving while he was in the car, when she stopped to get out and he grabbed her. The car was not in park, so it rolled and ran over her as they scuffled, according to that story. Later he said his stepmother ordered him to get out of the car. In that retelling, she got out and he didn’t grab her. Instead he jumped into the driver’s side, tried to turn around, and ran her over.
Someone called 911 around 5:10 a.m. about an injured woman in the road in the 7700 block of 19th Avenue NE. By the time sheriff’s deputies arrived, the car was gone. Debra Nelson had a broken femur, broken bones in both arms, a fractured hip and severe head trauma. She died later that week.
Police caught up to Tyler Nelson around 9:30 p.m. Feb. 15, 2018. He was in his father’s stolen 2008 Honda. As he was being arrested, he swallowed heroin and had to be taken to a hospital. He told deputies he didn’t do anything wrong, and that his stepmother “did it to herself.”
Detectives found a hair, which looked like Debra Nelson’s, embedded in the car’s undercarriage, as well as damage suggesting the vehicle ran over a person while moving forward.
He was initially charged with second-degree murder.
In a separate case, Tyler Nelson pleaded guilty last month to possessing heroin and meth, on the same day he admitted to vehicular homicide. His plea deal called for a total of 10 years in prison.
Two rows of long courtroom benches were filled with people for the sentencing Monday afternoon.
In a statement, Tyler Nelson apologized to his friends and family, but most of all, his father — whose wife is dead and whose son is going to prison.
“The way I conducted myself was unacceptable,” he said. “I chose to try to run from my problems, and it created a huge mess that will never get unraveled.”
He added that he never meant to hurt anybody.
His father, James Nelson, spoke to the judge through tears, in a voice too soft to be heard in the gallery. At one point he spoke louder, and said he’d been left in “a very hard position.”
Superior Court Judge David Kurtz’s sentence did not deviate from the plea deal. The judge called the case tragic beyond measure.
Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @snocaleb.