After listening to the grief of his victims' relatives, the drunken driver in a crash that killed two Federal Way teenagers days before their high school graduation last year agreed Friday he deserved the maximum prison term.
King County Superior Court Judge James Cayce sentenced Alexander E. Peder to the maximum 8½ years in prison for two counts of vehicular homicide while driving under the influence.
That wasn’t enough for Mary Bobbitt , the mother of 18-year-old Nicholas Hodgins, who was killed in the crash.
“There’s not enough time you could give him in prison to make up for losing our kids and what they could become,” she said.
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Peder, 51, of Kirkland, had been drinking before he crashed his Ford Explorer into a disabled Honda Civic stopped in the center lane of southbound Interstate 5 in Tukwila on June 9, 2010, according to court documents.
Derek King, 18, a passenger in the back seat of the Honda, died at the scene. Hodgins, a passenger in the front seat, died the next day at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Both were about to graduate from Decatur High School.
The Honda’s driver, Anthony Beaver, then a 19-year-old Decatur senior, was treated and released from Harborview.
More than 150 family members and friends of the victims overflowed the courtroom for Friday’s sentencing at the Regional Justice Center in Kent. Many wore white T-shirts with either King’s or Hodgins’ photo, a picture of the crashed Honda, and the phrase “DUI Laws Time for Change.”
Peder pleaded guilty in February to the two counts of DUI vehicular homicide. Tests showed his blood-alcohol content after the crash was 0.16, twice the legal limit for drivers.
Peder’s sentencing range included two two-year enhancements for his two prior DUI-related convictions . He was convicted of first-degree negligent driving in 1998 and of reckless endangerment in 2008.
Deputy prosecutor Amy Freedheim recommended Peder receive the maximum sentence.
Defense attorney John Wolfe had recommended the minimum of seven years, five months before Friday’s hearing. But Wolfe said his client changed his mind during the sentencing hearing because he “wanted to accept full responsibility.”
Randall King, the father of Derek King, said, “Our families are sentenced to life in prison” because of Peder’s actions cutting short two lives.
As a slide show of the teen’s life was shown during the sentencing, Derek King’s brother, 22-year-old Jared , sobbed. His dad put his arm around his remaining son, trying to console him.
Darrel Hodgins said the only thing he can look forward to is his life being over so he can hang out with his son, Nick, once again.
“I’m sentenced to a life of sorrow and emptiness,” he said.
Anthony Beaver said he wondered why he survived.
“Why didn’t I die?” Beaver asked. “Why couldn’t have my friends made it out and the drunk died?”
Peder told the judge he “accepts full and complete responsibility for my reckless actions on June 9, 2010, that took the lives of two young men.”
To the victims’ family and friends, he said, “I offer my sincere, heartfelt apology.”
Peder said he had been in denial of his alcohol abuse. He said he hopes to work to change laws “so that those who are in denial and need treatment cannot slip through the system.”
In September 2010, District Court Judge Richard Bathum revoked Peder’s one-year suspended sentence for the reckless endangerment conviction and imposed a one-year jail sentence because of Peder’s involvement in the crash that killed the teens.
Cayce decided Friday that the one-year sentence should run concurrently with Peder’s sentence on the two counts of vehicular homicide. Peder will receive credit for the time he’s already served.
His 8½-year sentence could be cut by up to one-third with credit for good behavior in prison, reducing his time served to less than six years behind bars.