A Spokane man who killed his girlfriend by running her over with his truck last year will spend the next 15 months in prison.
Brice Billups, 42, pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide-disregard for the safety of others last month.
He and his girlfriend, Melissa Morrow, had gone to a shooting range on Jan. 10, 2021. The two had been friends since they were young children and began dating as adults, said Billups’ attorney Chris Bugbee.
This was a “tremendously unfortunate situation,” Bugbee said.
After the couple left the gun range, they had a fight on the drive to her home near the corner of North Cincinnati Street and East Olympic Avenue in northeast Spokane, according to court documents.
Billups said they continued fighting once at Morrow’s home, and Billups told police he decided to leave. But Morrow followed him outside, he said.
Morrow wouldn’t get away from the truck window, Billups said, so he pushed her away before driving off, he told police. He thought Morrow was away from his truck but felt a bump and stopped when he realized he hit her, he told police an in initial statement.
Police responded after Billups called 911.
Billups had been drinking that day, and a blood alcohol test administered showed a level of .094, which is above the 0.08 legal limit to drive, according to court documents.
Their relationship was “rocky,” Bugbee acknowledged, adding that, “the bottom line is, my client loved Ms. Morrow tremendously.”
If they had gone to trial, Bugbee said he planned to argue that Morrow’s actions were part to blame for her death. Her blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit to drive, he said.
Billups pleaded guilty to take responsibility for his drinking, Bugbee said.
On Thursday, Billups, who was out of jail while awaiting sentencing, was emotional.
His family members, who were in the courtroom to support him, also cried.
“We all miss Melissa (Morrow) and are broken with this tragedy,” said Maureen Hurst, Billups’ mother. “We know that Brice will spend the rest of his life remembering that horrid, tragic day.”
Billups’ stepfather, Mark Hearst, said he too misses Morrow, and that the incident was a tragedy.
“Brice is a very, very good person,” Hearst said. “I know he had no malice intended.”
Morrow’s family did not attend the proceedings, but Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor John Love said the family agreed with the recommended sentence of 15 months, which is on the low end of the 15- to 20-month sentencing range.
Morrow’s teenage son was involved in the process, Love added.
Members of Morrow’s family wrote Judge Maryann Moreno letters to consider as part of the sentencing. Those letters had yet to be filed in the court record as of Thursday afternoon.
Billups said he wished Morrow’s family had attended the sentencing so he could apologize in person.
“There is not a day that goes by that I don’t wish I could trade my life for hers,” Billups said.
Moreno said she believes the charge of disregard for safety of others is “precisely what happened here.”
She sentenced Billups to 15 months in prison with 12 months of community custody. Billups is required to undergo evaluation for substance abuse and receive treatment if applicable.
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