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Living May Be The Punishment Driver Deserves

Her well-hugged brown teddy bear waits expectantly on a corner of the unmade bed.

The self-improvement reminders she drew in cartoonish block letters are still taped to the pink walls.

“Do All Homework,” warns one. “Get Good Grades,” advises another.

A sign above the head of her bed simply states her name:


There’s a sense something isn’t quite complete inside this silent, slightly cluttered upstairs bedroom.

It’s as if any moment the 14-year-old occupant will come barging in to rummage through the pile of tennis shoes and sandals. Or maybe she’ll grab one of the dozens of teen romance novels that line the pine bookshelf she made in woodshop.

Julie Allen won’t be coming home.

This bubbly, bright North Pines Junior High eighth-grader was snuffed out in a senseless May 25 car crash that has enraged Spokane like few other wrecks.

The day after he buried his daughter, Mike Allen invited me to his home in the Spokane Valley. He told me about how Julie loved to sing and never missed Sunday School. He tried to put his anger and loss into words.

“It was so unnecessary,” Allen, 48, says slowly. “You know, I didn’t want to leave her at the funeral home. I felt I should stay there and protect her.”

Later, he pauses and stares at the floor. “I have a lot of things to work out,” he adds.

We met once before under far happier circumstances.

I wrote about Allen after he saved the life of a 2-year-old boy who fell seven feet into an unsecured septic tank at North Idaho’s Silverwood Theme Park.

As bystanders stood and gawked, only Allen had nerve enough to crawl head first after the kid. A few moments more and the boy would have certainly drowned in that deep quicksand of human waste.

This time, however, no hero would be able save Allen’s child. “Now I know some of the agony of what that boy’s mother was going through,” says Allen.

Julie was on her way home with her 15-year-old brother, Jason, the evening she died. Their mother, Elena Marshall, drove her Ford LTD south on Hamilton. Marshall is Allen’s ex-wife.

At Mission, a red-and-white pickup roared west through a red light. It broadsided the Ford and careened into a Honda Accord. Julie was pronounced dead at Deaconess Medical Center. Karen Sederholm, 26, the driver of the Honda, died at the scene.

Tragically, pickup driver James B. Barstad lived.

The 30-year-old punk with his hair dyed blue and red was charged with two counts of vehicular homicide, drug possession, assault and malicious mischief. Police say he had already beat up his girlfriend and trashed her apartment before he slid behind the wheel.

Witnesses described the Richland man - who has two prior drunken driving arrests in Spokane County and a Montana drug arrest - as belligerent and smelling of booze after the carnage.

“I have absolutely no sympathy for him at all,” says Marshall, 38.

“I only have anger. I have rage. And I’m glad I’m alive to feel that way. I have that right.”

All the other passengers were treated and released except Marshall. She faces a slow, agonizing recovery from a shattered pelvis, punctured lungs and a broken collar bone.

Perhaps mercifully, Marshall draws a blank trying to recall the horrific events of last week. From her hospital bed, she bravely vows to get well and fight for tougher punishment for drunken drivers.

But maybe living is the worst fate that can happen to a menace like James B. Barstad. He’ll have a lifetime to think about two things:

It’s too late for Karen Sederholm. And nothing anyone can do will bring Julie Allen back to hug her teddy bear and make her bed.

, DataTimes

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