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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘I will honor his life:’ Man sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison for killing his 19-year-old friend in Spokane DUI crash

The Spokane County Courthouse is seen in this August 2020 photo.  (DAN PELLE/The Spokesman-Review)

Dressed in a suit and fighting back tears, Joshua Aguirre took responsibility for killing his 19-year-old friend, a “beautiful soul,” and asked Jose Valencia’s family for forgiveness Friday in Spokane County Superior Court.

Judge Timothy Fennessy then followed both attorneys’ requests and sentenced the 21-year-old to 6½ years in prison for the drunk-driving crash in northeast Spokane.

Aguirre was driving a gray 2018 Volkswagen Jetta on May 7, 2022, when he lost control of the car on a curve, struck a tree on the side of the road and rolled the car in the area of Upriver Drive and Upriver Bend Lane, according to court documents. Valencia, a passenger in the Jetta, died.

Aguirre told police he drank five Twisted Teas, two shots of Fireball and took four “dabs,” or cannabis oil, the night of May 6 before going to bed.

He said he woke up around 8:30 a.m. the next day, and he and Valencia decided to get breakfast in Spokane Valley, documents say.

Aguirre told police he rear-ended a vehicle on Argonne Road on his way to breakfast. He said he did not stop after the crash and drove west on Upriver Drive at 55 to 65 mph before losing control of the Jetta, according to documents. One witness estimated the Jetta traveled 70 to 100 mph.

Another witness confirmed Aguirre’s story, telling police the Jetta struck her vehicle on Argonne and East Bigelow Gulch roads prior to the fatal crash. She said the Jetta left the scene, and she followed the Jetta on Argonne and then Upriver Drive, documents say.

The witness heard Aguirre on the phone say, “I was driving; I killed my friend, mom.”

A preliminary breath test showed Aguirre’s blood alcohol level at 0.106, above the 0.08 legal limit in Washington, according to documents.

Aguirre pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide in January.

He told the court Friday he and Valencia had established a deep bond, and there were no words to make the family feel whole again. He said he wished he hadn’t been behind the wheel that day, and his actions stripped Valencia’s parents, who were not in court, from watching their son grow old.

“I will honor his life each and every day,” Aguirre said, as 15 of his loved ones sat behind him in the courtroom gallery.

“Tragic” was a word commonly used by both attorneys and Fennessy.

Joe Kuhlman, Aguirre’s attorney, said his client is a good man, and both young men had bright futures.

“It’s the worst tragedy I think I’ve seen in my 14 years of practice,” Kuhlman said.

Spokane County deputy prosecutor Joseph Edwards said vehicular homicide cases are some of the most difficult for the prosecution and defense. He said Aguirre never intended to hurt his friend.

“This is a difficult, tragic circumstance,” he said.

Fennessy said Aguirre’s mistake does not define him, and vehicular homicides happen far too often locally and across the country.

“This is a tragic, tragic day,” Fennessy said.

Fennessy ordered Aguirre to serve 18 months of community custody when he’s released from prison.

Aguirre shared tearful goodbyes and hugs with his loved ones before he was escorted in handcuffs to the Spokane County Jail.