Kaele Y. Pritchett’s parents woke her up Thursday morning and told her to get ready. She awakened her younger brothers to tell them she loved them. Then her parents drove her to jail.
Pritchett, 15, faces charges of vehicular homicide and vehicular assault, after an early-morning crash April 4 in Spokane Valley that killed Richard Cameron Ross, 14, and injured another 15-year-old girl. Pritchett was booked into Spokane County Juvenile Justice Center at 10:43 a.m. Thursday.
“(We) surrendered her over to the cops, and that was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” said Pritchett’s mother, Wendy.
The morning of the crash, Kaele Pritchett had been at a party where others were drinking, her mother said. As the designated driver – though too young to be licensed – Pritchett drove Ross and the other girl to a Spokane Valley grocery store, where police said they stole a box of doughnut holes.
On the way to a house on Union Avenue, the teens saw a police car flip its lights on and pull behind them. Scared, Kaele Pritchett hit the gas, and the Subaru wagon sped off. Officer Jeff Getchell followed in pursuit.
“I don’t think they understood what was happening, it was going too fast,” Wendy Pritchett said.
Kaele Pritchett, who had illegally driven her friend’s Subaru for “weeks and weeks,” her mother said, couldn’t negotiate a turn at Waterworks Street and Union. The car crashed through a fence and into an earthmover. Rescue crews had to cut off the Subaru’s roof to extricate the teens.
Spokane County sheriff’s Detective Ken Salas said Thursday that his department is pursuing the “very significant, very serious charges” because Kaele Pritchett allegedly was driving with reckless disregard for safety.
“We had high speeds on a residential street in the middle of the night, with an inexperienced driver without a license,” Salas said.
The maximum penalty for vehicular homicide is life in prison; vehicular assault carries a maximum penalty of 10 years. But Salas said juvenile court has the power to widely adjust charges and penalties, and takes a child’s criminal history into consideration.
Kaele Pritchett, who has run away from home numerous times, has several assault arrests on her record, Wendy Pritchett said. Though she’s had her problems, Kaele Pritchett “is a good kid with a good heart,” her mother said.
“She really tried to turn around, and she was getting better – and then this happened,” Wendy Pritchett said.
Kaele Pritchett suffered a broken leg and several facial injuries in the crash, her mother said. The other 15-year-old girl suffered facial injuries. Ross died at Deaconess Medical Center.
When the Sheriff’s Office obtained medical records, they indicated Kaele Pritchett had not been intoxicated while driving, her mother said. Salas would not release the results but said they did not factor into the criminal charges.
Because of her injuries, Kaele Pritchett’s parents thought authorities would treat her like one of the victims – perhaps charge her with evasion or reckless driving. When Salas called Wendy Pritchett on Wednesday to tell her the charges, she was devastated.
“I’m 35, and I don’t know if I could do it,” Wendy Pritchett said about her daughter’s experience. “She every day cries and thinks about Cameron. … She’s scarred for life.”
Cameron Ross was one of Kaele Pritchett’s best friends. Her mother said she thinks they “had little crushes on each other.”
Ross’ parents have been some of the Pritchetts’ biggest supporters throughout this ordeal, Wendy Pritchett said. Numerous calls to the Ross household Thursday were not returned.
“I miss him every day, I think about him every day,” Wendy Pritchett said. “I’m sorry Kaele had to go through this.”
Other kids have called Kaele Pritchett a murderer and have tried to fight her, her mother said.
Kaele Pritchett’s 11-year-old and 14-year old brothers, her father, Steve, and her mother have another chance to see her during her arraignment today.
“She doesn’t deserve jail. I don’t think prison or jail will help her,” Wendy Pritchett said. “She needs to be out there, telling other kids about it.”
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