Former Pend Oreille County sheriff’s dispatcher Cathy Van Stedum was convicted Tuesday of vehicular homicide in the Halloween evening death of a trick-ortreater.
A jury of six women and six men took about two hours to find Van Stedum guilty, and to conclude that she was drunk when she ran over Krissy Jones, 5. The determination that Van Stedum was intoxicated means she faces the sternest of three penalty ranges for vehicular homicide.
Under standard sentencing guidelines, Superior Court Judge Fred Stewart could sentence Van Stedum to approximately 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 years in prison. He ordered a presentence investigation and scheduled sentencing for June 8.
Lower sentencing ranges would have been available if the jury had found Van Stedum committed vehicular homicide through reckless driving or “disregard for the safety of others.” If she had been guilty only of disregard for safety, Van Stedum could have avoided any prison time under a special program for first offenders.
But a blood test an hour and 20 minutes after the fatal accident showed Van Stedum had an alcohol level of 0.17 percent. The legal threshold for intoxication is 0.10.
Van Stedum testified during her six-day trial that she had only one rum drink on the day of the accident. She said she consumed the drink at an Oldtown, Idaho, restaurant less than an hour before striking Jones on a nearby Newport street.
University of Washington physiology professor Michael Hlastala testified that Van Stedum’s bloodalcohol level could have been as low as 0.03 to 0.05 percent at the time of the accident.
He said his testimony was based on Van Stedum’s claim that all her drinking that day was in the hour before the accident. Her body wouldn’t have had time to absorb the alcohol, the defense witness said.
However, Hlastala said Van Stedum would have needed a minimum of 6.2 ounces of alcohol - more than six standard drinks - to achieve the 0.17 level that was recorded after the accident. He based his testimony on the assumption that she consumed 8.8 ounces of alcohol.
Van Stedum contended she drank only a single 12-ounce tumbler of rum and Coke, which she diluted with water. She testified that she didn’t see Jones before her vehicle struck the girl.