Man pleads guilty in fatal crash

  • By Diana Hefley For the Enterprise
  • Tuesday, February 10, 2009 6:27pm


Coleen Cooper was holding her breath.

Then the man accused of killing her 16-year-old daughter Janelle said the word.


Cooper’s heavy sigh filled the courtroom. She was breathing again.

Micah Pelton, 33, admitted on Thursday, Feb. 5 that he killed Janelle Cooper and injured her friend in May as the teens walked along a Lynnwood sidewalk. He also admitted he was drunk when he lost control of his pickup truck and smashed into the girls.

Janelle was pinned between the truck and a concrete barrier. She died alongside the road before her mom could say goodbye.

The impact of the crash shattered the other girl’s pelvis.

Pelton was led away in handcuffs Thursday, unable to return home to tell his three school-aged sons goodbye.

The Snohomish man asked to be allowed to remain free until his sentencing to take care of his boys. He is their primary caregiver and wanted to make arrangements for the boys before he was locked up, his attorney Eric Lindell said.

His client has been distraught and even suicidal over the crash, the Seattle attorney said. He attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings five times a week and has sought mental health services.

“He wants to make things right,” Lindell said after Thursday’s hearing.

Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Cowsert denied the request after he was advised that Pelton had received a speeding ticket in mid-January.

Less than three weeks earlier, Cowsert had ordered Pelton not to have any traffic tickets or he could face being jailed. Since the crash, police have cited Pelton five times for traffic infractions, including the most recent ticket, according to court documents. Those infractions include driving without a license, speeding and talking on a cell phone while driving.

“I’m not sure I could have made it any clearer that you didn’t have any wiggle room at all,” Cowsert said. “I can’t have you out of custody anymore.”

The judge ordered Pelton jailed on $500,000 bail until the March 2 sentencing.

Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Ed Stemler plans to recommend a nearly six-year prison sentence. Pelton has a prior misdemeanor conviction for first-degree negligent driving, stemming from another drunken-driving incident, Stemler wrote in court papers.

Coleen Cooper, her family and friends filed out of the courtroom before Pelton was taken to jail. They gathered together to share tears and hugs.

Janelle, known as “Choubiiee” and “Nelly-Belly,” had been a sophomore at Scriber Lake High School in Lynnwood. Hundreds of people packed her memorial service to remember the girl and to say goodbye.

Diana Hefley writes for The Herald in Everett.

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