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Victim’s family forgives his killer

A Cheney man whose drunken driving killed a young Airway Heights pizza deliveryman and college student last year said Wednesday that it should have been him who died.

Relatives of the victim, Yevgeny “Eugene” Korotin, could have been forgiven if they had agreed.

“You cannot describe this pain, nor can you put it on paper,” Vera Korotin, mother of the 21-year-old victim, said Wednesday, speaking through a Russian interpreter at Paul S. Estrada’s sentencing for vehicular homicide. “It is like the scream of your soul, an unending heartache.”

But she and other family members forgave the 50-year-old former state Department of Transportation technician.

In asking Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen to show mercy on Estrada, Korotin’s family increased a debt Estrada acknowledged he can never repay. They asked him to try by devoting himself to telling young people not to do what he did.

With a blood-alcohol level of 0.12 percent, Estrada plowed head-on into Korotin’s car while attempting to pass another car in heavy fog about 6:15 p.m. on Feb. 5, 2004. Korotin died at the scene of the crash, on Craig Road near its intersection with State Route 902, north of Medical Lake.

Korotin’s widow, Tanya Korotin, told Eitzen her husband spoke to her about death and forgiveness a week before he died.

“For some reason, he felt that death was close,” she said. “He said, ‘If anybody killed me, would you forgive them?’ And I said, ‘No,’ and he was really saddened.

” … I’m standing here today saying I did forgive, and I wish the court to give mercy, to give forgiveness. It is my wish and Yevgeny’s wish.”

A harsh sentence would just “put more sorrow on more people, and I don’t want to see any more people getting hurt,” Tanya Korotin said.

It soon became apparent that the family’s pain has been compounded by a rift about money and other issues between the young widow and the victim’s mother, who sat apart from each other in court.

However, she agreed with her daughter-in-law about Estrada.

“I don’t know that the punishment will make a lot of difference as long as he acknowledges that he has done wrong and tells other people not to do it,” the sobbing mother said.

Her sister, Tatyana Yekhvald, remained silent until Estrada’s parents, Armand and Nancy Estrada, and his brother, Mark Estrada, described the pain and regret they felt.

Yekhvald said she had intended to call for “something very different,” but – based on her sister’s attitude and the words of Estrada’s family – she asked Eitzen to impose the lowest possible sentence.

Deputy Prosecutor Clint Francis urged Eitzen to impose a sentence from the middle of Estrada’s standard range of approximately 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 years in prison. Defense attorney Philip Nino called for a year in the county jail.

Eitzen said she wasn’t inclined to go below the standard range, but she accepted Nino’s recommendation because of the wishes of the victim’s family and her belief that Estrada’s remorse was genuine.

She authorized work-release at the county’s Geiger Corrections Center. Eitzen said Estrada may convert 240 hours of his sentence to community service by telling high school and college students about his experience.

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