Driver pleads guilty in fatal DUI crash case

COUPEVILLE - The woman accused of killing a beloved community volunteer in a drunk driving crash last year pled guilty to one charge of vehicular homicide in Island County Superior Court Tuesday morning.

Randi Carol Shelton was allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol on Highway 525 on Jan. 22, 2007, when her SUV struck Karen Gervais Boone’s car and killed the mother of two.

Shelton, 36, was injured in the accident as well. Dressed in dark clothing, she walked into the courtroom with the assistance of a metal cane.

Behind her sat members of her family while on the other side of the court room, the victim's mother and father quietly watched the court proceedings.

The end to the drawn-out legal battle over the vehicular homicide case came quickly.

Shelton's attorney, Craig Platt, was in the process of challenging Washington State Toxicology Laboratory DUI test results when he got word that Shelton wanted to move forward with a guilty plea.

"My client has carefully considered all the options," Platt told Superior Court Judge Alan Hancock.

"Ultimately, her decision is that she wishes to accept responsibility for what occurred. Moreover, she wants to avoid any additional stress or agony for the victim's family, which was a primary factor for her in this," Platt said.

Sentencing has been set for July 11. The maximum penalty is life in prison and a $50,000 fine.

Because of her prior convictions for DUI, Shelton would likely receive an additional four years on top of the standard sentencing range of 31 to 41 months, Hancock told her. That means Shelton faces a prison term of up to 7 years, three months.

Shelton repeatedly wiped away tears as she answered the judge.

"To the information then in this case, charging vehicular homicide, what is your plea?" Judge Hancock asked.

"Guilty," she replied.

"Miss Shelton, in paragraph 11 in your statement of defendant pleading guilty, you say that on or about Jan. 22, 2007, in Island County Washington, you drove a motor vehicle while affected by intoxicating liquor and did thereby cause the death and injury to Karen Gervais. Is that correct?"

"Yes, your honor," Shelton said.

Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks was not surprised that Shelton changed her mind to plead guilty.

"People decide at different stages of a life of a case whether they are going to plead guilty or not," he said. "She happened to decide at this time. It is not unusual."

Gervais Boone’s father expressed relief after Shelton's guilty plea was accepted.

"Oh, wow! That is my feeling. It’s been a year and four months, roughly, and it's finally getting some kind of conclusion," Jim Gervais said.

"Am I feeling better? No. I am feeling very sad because I still have a daughter buried in Sunnyside Cemetery. There is no happiness - no happiness at all," he said.

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