Repeat drunken driver, who killed 2, charged with 5th DUI

Brandon Belisle is accused of a 0.20 DUI in Marysville. His reckless driving left two dead in 2006.

Brandon Belisle (Washington Department of Corrections)

Brandon Belisle (Washington Department of Corrections)

EVERETT — For killing two men in Skagit County in a horrific crash while racing in 2006, Brandon Belisle served a prison sentence of six years.

Six years later, he was caught driving drunk, and a judge ordered him to sit behind bars for five more years.

This month Belisle was charged with drunken driving again. He’s accused of more than doubling the 35 mph speed limit, with more than double the legal limit of alcohol in his bloodstream. If convicted, he faces years in prison for what would be his fifth DUI.

On the afternoon of Nov. 3, Belisle was driving east at 65 mph in a Subaru on 116th Street NE in Marysville, according to charging papers. A state trooper whipped around and witnessed the Subaru pass four cars on the on-ramp to I-5, then pass more cars while switching more than one lane at a time.

The trooper flipped on his cruiser’s emergency lights, but the Subaru didn’t pull over until the trooper told him to stop, over a public announcement system.

Along the shoulder, the driver rolled down all of the car’s windows. An odor of alcohol hit the trooper as he approached. A beer sat in the cup holder.

Belisle reportedly told the trooper he was supposed to have an ignition interlock device in his car, to keep the engine from starting unless he gave an alcohol-free breath sample. But he hadn’t installed it yet.

His speech was slurred, the trooper wrote. His eyes were watery. He stepped out of his car to search for his insurance information, and stood unsteadily.

A breathalyzer estimated his blood-alcohol content at 0.20. Later a crime lab tested a sample of his blood at 0.19, according to the charges. The legal limit is 0.08.

According to the court papers, Belisle told the trooper he was “going to get 60 months for this.”

That’s how much time Belisle was ordered to serve in 2012, when a trooper in Skagit County pulled him over for speeding 33 mph over the limit on Highway 20, east of Concrete. He erratically passed cars and ignored the trooper’s lights and sirens for about a half-mile, according to charging papers. Eventually he braked to a halt in an unsafe curve, with his driver’s side tires about 8 inches over the fog line.

The trooper noticed an open 12-pack of Budweiser Platinum with bottles missing, on the passenger side floorboard. He swayed as he got out of the car, and the trooper asked how much he had to drink.

“A good amount,” Belisle replied. “I’m not going to lie to you and tell you (expletive) one or two. … Just give me the other thingy, the test.”

A breath test measured his blood-alcohol content at 0.262 and 0.267.

“During the observation period, we had a serious conversation about his alcoholism,” wrote the state trooper, Mark Francis. “He was frank with me about his alcoholism.”

In that case, Belisle was convicted of felony driving under the influence. His record shows he had been found guilty of minor in possession of alcohol in 1998 and 1999; hit and run of unattended property in 2000 and 2001; driving under the influence in 2000, 2002 and 2005; furnishing liquor to minors in 2001; and vehicular assault in 2004.

His most serious driving offense came early on March 12, 2006.

Belisle had finished work around 9:30 p.m. He spent the evening drinking at a sushi bar and at least two taverns around Sedro Woolley. He later told police he consumed two or three Jack and Cokes, seven or eight beers and a line of cocaine. Outside the sushi bar, three men spoke with him about the power of his 1990 Volkswagen Corrado, and they talked about maybe racing sometime, according to the charges.

The men got into a Dodge pickup and he followed them to what was supposed to be a party. Charges say the VW passed the Dodge twice, then allowed the men to pass, because the driver didn’t know where they were going. A witness saw the two southbound vehicles coming toward her on rural Highway 9 at over 80 mph, or more than double the speed limit.

Moments later, the pickup hit two power poles in a curve. On impact the engine ripped out of the truck, and two men — Anthony Sherill and Robert Hicks — were killed. A third man suffered fractures to both legs, among other life-threatening internal injuries.

The southbound Volkswagen had left tire marks in the northbound lane of Highway 9. The Corrado crashed into another power pole nearby at 2 a.m.

A trooper spotted Belisle perhaps 15 minutes later, bleeding and staggering in the road. He claimed he’d been chasing after the Volkswagen driver, who ran away. However, at one point he let slip that he’d been racing the Dodge, according to the charging papers. Court papers say his blood alcohol tested at 0.17.

Belisle entered an Alford plea to manslaughter and vehicular homicide with disregard for the safety of others (not while under the influence). In an Alford plea, a defendant asserts his or her innocence, but admits a jury could reach a guilty verdict based on the evidence. He’s still considered guilty of both counts.

This week, Belisle was being held in Snohomish County Jail, with bail set at $250,000.

Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; Twitter: @snocaleb.

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