A deep sense of sorrow permeated a crowded courtroom in Coupeville Friday afternoon as a young woman who killed three of her best friends in a drinking-and-driving accident learned her fate.
Island County Superior Court Judge Vickie Churchill earned exhalations of surprise from many when she handed 18-year-old Kaylea Souza the maximum sentence of five years and eight months in prison, which was 14 months longer than the sentence recommended by the deputy prosecutor.
“I know you are terribly sorry about this, but you chose to drink, you chose to drive,” she told Souza.
“You will survive, you will come out of this … I can only think of three lives,” Churchill added after delivering the sentence.
Souza, a Langley resident, quietly wept through most of the two-hour hearing and spoke briefly just before the judge announced her sentence. Souza apologized repeatedly and said she had lost her “very best friends.”
“I’m sorry for all the pain that I have caused,” she said.
Souza was intoxicated and behind the wheel in the South Whidbey crash on Wilkinson Road that killed Charles “Mack” Porter III, 19, Robert Knight, 22, and Marcel “Mick” Poynter, 20, just after midnight on Nov. 12, 2011. Deputy Prosecutor David Carman said Souza was speeding and made an illegal pass when she lost control and smashed the car into a tree.
A long line of family members and friends of the three victims came forward to address the judge. They described their despair and loss, but many also offered forgiveness to the young woman. Most of the speakers said they would like to see Souza take part in impact panels to teach young drivers about the devastation that drinking and driving can cause.
Brandi Porter, Mack Porter’s sister, offered the judge a petition signed by 474 people who want Souza to be required to give presentations to young people after she gets out of prison.
Churchill said she couldn’t legally control what Souza does after she serves her sentence, but Souza promised to work to help others learn from her mistakes.
Rebecca Thomas, Mack’s mother, explained that she is a police officer in California and often deals with tragedies caused by drinking and driving, but she never thought it would happen to her family. She also urged Souza to work with young people to prevent this kind of tragedy.
“That is the only way I will ever have peace,” she said.
Mack’s father, Staff Sgt. Mack Porter, Jr., expressed his sorrow at losing a son.
“This is one pain that will never, ever go away,” said Porter, Jr.
Robert’s parents, Bruce and Sharon Knight, came together to the podium. Sharon held up a picture of her son while Bruce spoke. He asked the judge to give Souza the maximum, noting that the recommendation by the prosecution would amount to less than one year for each young man’s life.
“Our sentence will continue for the rest of our lives,” he said.
Mick’s mother, Georgiann’e Poynter, sobbed while she described the night that she awoke to let her son in the house, only to find the coroner and a deputy at her doorstep.
“It is the worst thing a parent can ever experience,” she said. “Ever. Ever.”