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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Court documents: 70-year-old man accused of killing 35-year-old school teacher admitted to drinking beer prior to crash

Gary Thompson, left, stands with his attorney Tuesday at Thompson's first appearance for a vehicular homicide charge in Spokane County Superior Court. Thompson is accused of killing 35-year-old Mindy Wilson Saturday in northeast Spokane.   (Garrett Cabeza / The Spokesman-Review)

A 70-year-old man drank beer with family at a Spokane Valley establishment before striking and killing a 35-year-old school teacher Saturday night on his drive from the bar to his north Spokane home, according to court documents.

Gary Thompson was arrested on suspicion of vehicular homicide in the death of Mindy Wilson.

Spokane County Superior Court Judge Tony Hazel released Thompson from jail after his arrest.

Thompson wore a blue jean jacket and white face mask over his nose and mouth for his initial appearance Tuesday in front of Spokane County Superior Court Commissioner Eugene Cruz.

Cruz continued to allow Thompson, who has no criminal history, to be free from jail.

Cruz instead ordered Thompson to drive with an ignition interlock device, a less restrictive alternative than incarceration and addresses the community safety concern, Cruz said.

Spokane County deputy prosecutor Austin Brown asked Cruz to remand Thompson to jail and impose a $100,000 bond to keep the community safe. Brown said Thompson’s age and lengthy potential prison sentence increased his incentive to flee.

Brown said releasing Thompson would send a message to the community that a significant crime like vehicular homicide isn’t taken seriously.

According to court documents, police determined Wilson was walking at about 7:10 p.m. in a dark jacket and jeans across Empire Avenue at Morton Street when a white 2020 GMC Canyon pickup truck, driven by Thompson and heading west on Empire, struck Wilson. The strike sent Wilson into the eastbound lane, where another vehicle ran her over.

Police found Wilson unresponsive and lying in the middle of the intersection. She died at the scene after police, medics and firefighters tried to save her.

Police noted a Central Valley School District substitute badge with Wilson’s name and picture on it.

Marla Nunberg, spokesperson for the district, said Wilson was a substitute teacher for the district.

The Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office said Wilson died of blunt force injuries of the head, neck, torso and extremities. It ruled the death an accident.

Thompson told police he was driving home from The Black Diamond, a restaurant and bar on Sprague Avenue near Farr Road in Spokane Valley, where he had been with his family since about 2 p.m., court records show. He said he was traveling about 30 mph when he struck Wilson, who he did not see until he hit her.

Thompson said he looked down to adjust his truck radio, heard that he had struck something, looked up and saw Wilson rolling through the intersection. He then saw another vehicle drive over Wilson. Thompson called 911.

Thompson told police he and two or three others shared two pitchers of beer at the bar. He said he could not recall when exactly he drank, how much and when he had stopped.

Thompson said he also had one “toke” of cannabis from a pipe that morning.

A police officer noted a “slight odor” of alcohol on Thompson’s breath and clothing, and a “slight slur” in his speech, documents say.

Another officer said in documents he could smell the “obvious odor” of alcohol coming from Thompson, and that Thompson told him he had several drinks at the bar.

Thompson seemed to struggle to follow directions and recall information as he repeated questions and occasionally repeated information, police said in documents. He walked in a straight line without issues.

During his interaction with police, Thompson’s phone rang and an officer overheard him tell the person on the phone he hit someone and was likely going to jail. He later said he was talking to his son on the phone, according to documents.

After speaking with an attorney, Thompson told police he did not want to participate in a drug influence evaluation nor conduct further tests, except for a breath test for alcohol.

Blood samples were taken from Thompson.

A woman told police she was on the phone with Wilson when she heard Wilson yell an expletive a few times. She then heard the phone fall and move around. Moments later, the woman said she heard the sound of a male voice screaming that he couldn’t believe he hit someone.

Thompson is scheduled for an arraignment Feb. 21.