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‘Why don’t you just kill yourself?’ Former 911 dispatcher charged with vehicular homicide

Aug. 12, 2022 Updated Fri., Aug. 12, 2022 at 9:15 p.m.

By Allen Siegler (Tacoma) News Tribune

Cherise Ashley Denholm was once lauded by Tacoma mayor Victoria Woodards for her commitment to receiving and transmitting crisis calls. But after becoming the subject of a 911 call herself last September, she faces charges of vehicular homicide.

Denholm, a former communications officer for South Sound 911, was summoned by a Pierce County Superior Court judge to appear for arraignment Aug. 30. Charging documents allege she was responsible for a September 2021 car crash in Lakewood that killed an 89-year-old woman driving in the opposite direction. South Sound 911 spokesperson Kris McNamar said via email Denholm was employed by the agency for about a year until May 2021. Reasons for her departure are unclear.

The crash occurred four months later, in the 7500 block of 150th Street Southwest. Denholm was in the driver’s seat of a Dodge Ram pickup truck. Witnesses described an apparent domestic dispute between Denholm and a man who had just stepped out of the truck. The two were screaming back and forth.

According to charging documents, Denholm told a police officer at the scene that she was trying to convince the man to get back in the vehicle when he replied, “Why don’t you just kill yourself?”

Distraught, Denholm spotted a random car passing in the opposite direction, and drove directly into it.

The crash lacerated the spleen and broke the back of Shirley Reimer, the other driver. After reviewing a device inside Denholm’s truck, a police officer estimated the truck was moving at just under 50 miles per hour when it hit Reimer, charging papers say.

Reimer was transported to the hospital, where she had surgeries for her wounds. Her health declined over the next month, and she died of injury complications in late October.

According to Pierce County Prosecutor spokesperson Adam Faber, Denholm was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash. While it happened nearly a year ago, Faber said the deputy prosecuting attorney was not able to file charges until this week; in an email to the newspaper, he cited Reimer’s delayed death, a need for specialized collision expertise, and a lengthy timeline between toxicology screening tests and results as reasons for the gap.

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