Nichols enters ‘not guilty’ plea for vehicular homicide

Michelle Nichols

A South Whidbey woman accused of vehicular homicide in the death of a Freeland man earlier this year has pleaded “not guilty.”

Michelle Nichols, 47, was arraigned in Island County Superior Court Monday, Sept. 14. She appeared only briefly before Judge Vickie Churchill to enter her plea.

“I plead not guilty,” Nichols said.

Nichols was originally scheduled for arraignment last month but she appeared without an attorney. A judge gave her two weeks to  secure legal counsel.

She showed up Monday with Langley attorney David Carman. He’s a former Island County deputy prosecutor who has worked on past vehicular homicide cases, such as the 2011 crash on South Whidbey that killed three young men and sent Kaylea Souza to five years and eight months in prison.

Carman declined to comment on details of the case, but did say that not guilty pleas in criminal cases allow for additional time for the legal process and attorney, and are standard practice.

“It’s almost universal,” Carman said.

Nichols has asked not to be contacted by The Record.

Nichols is accused of being drunk in a Feb. 14 crash that claimed the life of Tim Keil, a 61-year-old Freeland man. According to the Washington State Patrol, Nichols was southbound on Highway 525 and crossed the centerline just past the Coles Road intersection. Her vehicle, a Ford van, collided with the northbound Keil, who was in a Honda Accord.

Keil died at the scene and Nichols was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. State police took blood samples that night that showed a blood-alcohol level of 0.11 percent.

She was charged with one count of vehicular homicide Aug. 7 under the “DUI prong” of the charge, which is the most serious and carries the longest potential sentence. If convicted, she could face from 78 to 102 months in prison under the standard sentencing range.

Per a judge’s ruling, Nichols was released with the following conditions: she can’t leave the state and must reside at her court-documented Langley address, she can’t break the law, possess or drink alcohol, use drugs, and she can’t drive “unless properly licensed and insured.”

Nichols’ next scheduled court appearance is an omnibus hearing, Nov. 2.