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Weichert, Bowling sentenced for three North Whidbey highway deaths | Update
By JESSIE STENSLAND
Island County Superior Court Judge Alan Hancock, widely known for his professionalism and restraint, struggled with his emotions during a sentencing hearing in a high-profile vehicular homicide case.
“I guess Ms. Wood said it best,” the judge said, pausing as his voice broke. “Words cannot express the overwhelming grief, devastation and loss that these cases have engendered. One might well ask why we are here.”
There was barely a dry eye Friday afternoon at the hearing that culminated the unusual case in which two young women were held responsible for a North Whidbey car crash on Sept. 3, 2010. Three people were killed and two others were injured.
At the end of the lengthy and emotional hearing, Hancock sentenced Jordyn Weichert, a 21-year-old Oak Harbor resident, to eight years in prison, which was near the top of the standard range but six months shy of the maximum. Weichert was the driver of the vehicle that caused the accident. A jury convicted her last month of three counts of vehicular homicide and two counts of vehicular assault.
Hancock sentenced 23-year-old Samantha Bowling, also of Oak Harbor, to five years and one month in prison. She was a front-seat passenger who held the steering wheel for Weichert just prior to the accident. She pleaded guilty to three counts of vehicular homicide, as well as possession of heroin from a separate case. Under the terms of her plea bargain, both the defense and prosecution recommended the sentence she ultimately received.
Those killed in the accident were 25-year-old Jacob Quistorf and 26-year-old Francis Malloy, both of Oak Harbor. Bowling suffered a fractured hip.
The driver of the other car, 33-year-old Brian Wood of North Vancouver, B.C., also died. His wife, Erin Wood, was pregnant at the time of the crash and was seriously injured, but the baby was unharmed.
Both Erin Wood and her father-in-law spoke at length during the hearing, urging the judge to impose the maximum possible sentence. They attempted to describe the heartbreak and grief that the tragedy has produced for their family, causing many in the audience — including Weichert — to break into tears.
“We lost a truly great man. Great at age 33,” Ed Wood said of his son. “A man who was just beginning to reach his potential as a father and husband, as a singer, and as a video game designer. A husband who left a grieving 30-year-old widow. A father who was never allowed to hold his child.”
Wood said his son was hoping for a daughter, but died before he knew he had one. Sierra Wood was born Oct. 28, 2010. He also emphasized how his son was a renowned video game designer who was on the verge of a breakthrough.
Wood expressed anger at the two defendants, urging the judge to give them the maximum sentence “to protect the remaining citizens of Whidbey Island who these women have not yet killed, maimed or inducted into their hedonistic, irresponsible, parasitic drug subculture.”
Erin Wood, sobbing, said there is no way to express the devastation of losing her “soul mate and life partner.” She said most days she wishes she had never been pulled out of the car.
“The first thought I have when I wake up in the morning is that he is gone and the last thought before I fall asleep at night is the same,” she said.
Hancock stressed that he read and spent a great deal of time considering the letters that family and friends of the other victims submitted to the court, as well as those presented on behalf of Weichert and Bowling. He said he understood that many of those people didn’t feel comfortable or couldn’t emotionally handle making comments in court.
“Let’s not forget for one moment Jacob Quistorf or Francis Malloy,” he said.
Just before sentencing, both Bowling and Weichert read statements apologizing for their actions and expressing remorse.
Bowling said she takes responsibility and realizes there is no justification or excuse for what she did.
“I am responsible for the death of the man who loved me and was the center of my world,” she said, referring to Quistorf, who was her boyfriend.
Weichert said writing down her thoughts and speaking at the hearing was the hardest thing she’s ever had to do. She said she knows she’ll never be able to “right this wrong” and doesn’t expect forgiveness, but she wanted people to know she’s not a monster. She also said she lost the man she loved; her boyfriend was Malloy, whom she cradled on the highway on the night of the accident.
“You don’t know how it feels to be the one responsible for this kind of tragedy,” she said. “... If I could take the place of any of them, I would in an instant.”
Before handing down his sentence, Hancock said the evidence that both Weichert and Bowling had ingested drugs before the accident weighed on his sentencing decision, though he hadn’t allow the jury to consider it as a cause of the collision.
Finally, Hancock knew the two young women would carry the tragedy and the consequences of actions with them for the rest of their lives.
“I hope you will find peace at some point,” he said, “and find a way to give back to the community for what you have done.”