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Blood tests show teen driver had been drinking before fatal wreck

Kaylea Souza appears in court at her arraignment on Nov. 29. Souza pled
Kaylea Souza appears in court at her arraignment on Nov. 29. Souza pled 'not guilty' to three charges of vehicular homicide.
— image credit: Brian Kelly / Record file

COUPEVILLE — A toxicology report shows Kaylea F. Souza was driving impaired when she crashed her 2003 Chevrolet Malibu and killed three passengers last month, an attorney in the Island County Prosecutor’s Office said Thursday.

Souza, 18, was charged with three counts of vehicular homicide in Island County Superior Court on Nov. 28. She pled “not guilty” to all three charges.

Authorities allege that Souza had been drinking malt liquor before she got into her car and drove the night of Nov. 11. Witnesses to the crash told police Souza lost control while trying to pass another car and hit a tree; Charles “Mack” Porter III, 19, Robert Knight, 22, and Marcel “Mick” Poynter, 20, were killed in the wreck.

Two vials of blood were taken from Souza after she was arrested the night of the crash. Deputy Prosecuting Attorney David Carman said blood toxicology results received by the county show Souza had a blood ethanol level of .10 grams (per 100 ml) at the time of the test, which is equivalent to blowing a .1 on a breath test, he said.

Drivers can be charged with DUI at a level of .08.

According to court records, a phlebotomist at Whidbey General Hospital took Souza’s blood more than one hour after the crash.

The test results were received this week. Carman said the county had hoped to get results back earlier from the State Patrol, but Carman said there was a delay after the detective in charge of the investigation was pulled away from his regular duties to provide security at the state Capitol during last week’s Occupy protests in Olympia.

Carman declined to discuss the case at length, and noted the investigation into the accident is still ongoing.

Souza is scheduled to stand trial Jan. 24, and two preliminary hearings have been set for Dec. 19 and Jan. 9.

At her last court appearance on Nov. 28, her friends and family packed the courtroom. Peter Simpson, her court-appointed attorney, asked the judge to cut her bail to $15,000 and noted her lack of a criminal history and her ties to the community. Souza is a 2011 graduate of Bayview School and had recently been working as a server in a local restaurant.

Superior Court Judge Alan Hancock agreed to lower Souza’s bail amount, cutting it in half from $150,000 to $75,000.

Souza was released from the Island County Jail in Coupeville this week after a bond was submitted to cover her $75,000 bail.

Her friends have been raising money on her behalf, and her boyfriend Ricky Diehl told the Record this week that a bank account was being set up to help her.

A-Ace Bail Bonds posted the bond, and Souza was released Wednesday afternoon, according to a corrections officer at the county jail.

“It’s my understanding that her community support got behind her,” Simpson said. “And between her friends and supporters she was able to muster up enough to get bailed out.”

“Her community just banded together to assist her,” he said.

As part of her release, Souza has been prohibited from driving. She also cannot drink alcohol or possess or use any drugs unless prescribed by a physician, and cannot refuse to take a breath test, blood test or other examinations.

Souza was also ordered to not commit any violations of the law, and cannot leave the state without the court’s permission.

Souza was arrested in the early morning hours following the accident, which occurred just before midnight Nov. 11 on Wilkinson Road at Meander Lane, just north of Clinton.

Souza was driving south toward Clinton when she lost control, hit an embankment, and then struck a tree next to a bus stop.

Two teenagers in a trailing car, Miranda Medeiros and Ariel Beason, forced open a passenger door on Souza’s Malibu and pulled her from the car before it burst into flames.

The three passengers could not be rescued and died at the scene.

A Langley police officer arrived minutes after the accident, followed by an ambulance and fire department units.

According to court records, the Langley officer spoke with Souza in the back of the ambulance, and she allegedly told police she had consumed a 40-ounce container of Mickey’s beer and also Olde English beer, both brands of malt liquor.

She told officers, “I wasn’t that drunk,” and later yelled out, “I can’t believe they let me drive,” before she was taken to Whidbey General Hospital in Coupeville.

A trooper with the Washington State Patrol spoke with Souza at WGH, and she also admitted drinking beer before driving. The officer said Souza’s eyes were watery and bloodshot, and there was a “strong odor of intoxicants” on her breath.

Souza was given sobriety tests and the officer found all six clues that indicate impairment.

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