EVERETT — On the stand, Michael Spieker told jurors he drank a Jack and Coke, ate a marijuana cookie and then had two or three light beers on Sept. 1, 2017, over the course of about five hours.
Spieker testified that he didn’t feel impaired when he got behind the wheel and caused a crash that killed Staci Laugle, 26, in Mountlake Terrace.
A jury could not agree on whether he was under the influence. But after a few hours of deliberation, Spieker was convicted Thursday of vehicular homicide while driving in a reckless manner.
That night he left a Mountlake Terrace pub with Laugle and invited her to come over to relax around a fire with friends. Another friend was driving south in front of them on 48th Avenue W.
In Spieker’s best estimate, his friend was going 35 or 40 mph in a 25 mph zone. Spieker tried to pass, he said, so he could lead him to his home.
“Unofficially, the speed limit is almost like 35, 40 on that road, when you drive,” Spieker, 28, testified this week in Snohomish County Superior Court. “So it’s kind of like the norm, I felt like.”
Spieker lost control of his Nissan 370z sports car as he overtook the friend’s vehicle at 221st Street SW. The Nissan lurched over a curb to the right of the road, into a tree. The passenger side crumpled and the engine caught fire.
Laugle died. She was a Shorecrest High School graduate who met Spieker when she was a barista. She had just moved to Monroe and started a new job at a housing management company. She hoped to one day work in human resources, her mother, Wendy Laugle, said.
“She was a beautiful person, the kindest soul ever — always had a smile on her face,” her mother said. “We love and miss her something terrible.”
The trial began and ended this week. Spieker testified for about an hour Wednesday, the defense’s only witness.
Blood samples taken 2½ hours after the crash measured his blood-alcohol content at .049, about half the legal limit, according to court papers. He had 4.7 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood, just below the limit of 5 ng for the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
Deputy prosecutor Tobin Darrow argued that, in tandem, alcohol and cannabis impaired him.
State troopers estimated he had been traveling well over 60 mph when he hit the curb.
“This whole insane, impulsive decision to be passing at three times the speed limit on that little residential road shows that his judgment is really off,” Darrow said in his closing argument. “Either that, or he doesn’t have a lick of common sense.”
Defense attorney Jon Scott countered that the defendant never showed any outward sign of impairment.
That day Spieker left work around 5:30 p.m., he testified. He went to pick up the Nissan from an auto shop in Edmonds, where the clutch and transmission had been worked on. He had a drink at his grandparents’ home.
“He wasn’t having a Jack and Coke so he could get drunk with them, it’s just a social custom,” Scott argued.
On the witness stand, the prosecutor asked Spieker why he’d eaten an edible marijuana cookie within a few hours of the crash. Spieker said he thought it would relax him while he played video games.
Edible cannabis has a much slower onset than smoking, and the effects often last much longer.
“OK, and was it having this effect of relaxing you?” the prosecutor, Darrow, asked the defendant.
“No, sir. It was just one cookie,” Spieker replied.
“So that also failed? Whiskey didn’t relax you, and neither did marijuana?” Darrow asked.
“It had no effect on you?”
“What’s the point of taking it, if it didn’t have an effect on you?”
“Couldn’t tell you.”
At the pub, he drank two beers, or three at most, from shared pitchers, Spieker testified. He said it was either Bud Light or Coors Light.
Spieker testified that he hit a large bump near the middle of the road, and that made him lose control as he passed his friend at 11:30 p.m. No police photos from the scene showed a visible bump.
Darrow suggested there might have been a small bump — and if Spieker was traveling at a high speed, it certainly would’ve felt much bigger.
“Do you think it is possible that you got up to 60, 70 mph?” Darrow asked him.
“I couldn’t tell you,” Spieker said.
“That is possible?” Darrow said.
Right after the crash, Spieker said in the ambulance that “I (expletive) up and killed (Laugle).”
The jury began deliberating at 11 a.m. Thursday. They reached a guilty verdict by 3:30 p.m. Under state guidelines, Spieker faces 6½ to 8½ years in prison.
Darrow asked Spieker on the stand how he’d been feeling that night, before the crash. He said he’d actually been very happy. Laugle had invited him out to the pub with her girlfriends, he said.
“Was Staci in a good mood?”
“She always was,” he said.
Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @snocaleb.