On April 23, the House family would likely have driven to Konner House’s favorite restaurant. He would have ordered his favorite meal, filet mignon, and the family would have celebrated his 20th birthday.
Instead, Kristine House spent her son’s birthday writing a letter describing her life since his death in 2015. Only months after Konner House graduated from Olympia’s Capital High School, his friend Tanner Hultman crashed his car on Black Lake Boulevard. Konner House, the passenger, died a few days later at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center. He was 18 years old.
On Thursday, the House family went to Thurston County Superior Court, where Kristine House read her letter aloud to Judge Mary Sue Wilson. She described what it was like to take her only son off life support.
“That moment is forever etched into my being,” Kristine House said.
Hultman, 20, was charged with vehicular homicide nearly 10 months after Konner House’s death. He pleaded guilty to the charge on March 30. At Thursday’s hearing, Wilson sentenced him to one year, eight months in prison — the maximum sentence allowed by state law.
Hultman was driving a Volkswagen Jetta on Black Lake Boulevard on Nov. 18, 2015. He lost control of the car and crashed into two parked cars. He told officers that he hadn’t been speeding, and that his car hydroplaned, according to court documents. But an officer noted that there was no standing water on the road, and temperatures were above freezing.
Investigators believe Hultman was traveling 74 to 84 mph in a 45 mph zone, said Deputy Prosecutor Olivia Zhou.
When officers searched the Jetta, they found a six-pack of hard root beer. Two cans were empty. They also found a cooler filled with unopened beer cans. Police talked to some of Hultman’s friends, who had been with him before the crash, and they reported Hultman had been drinking before he started driving, according to court documents.
Hultman was never charged with driving under the influence. Zhou said Tumwater Police Department officers reported they had no reason to believe Hultman was impaired.
Zhou said Hultman has no prior criminal history. However, he was cited three times for speeding prior to the crash. He was cited for speeding again after Konner House’s death.
Kristine House said the fourth speeding infraction raised concerns for her and her family.
“This is unbelievable to me,” Kristine House said. “If killing someone won’t make you change, what will it take?”
Attorney Paul Strophy, who represents Hultman, said his client takes full responsibility for his actions — and has said on several occasions that he wishes he could take Konner House’s place.
He said grief caused Hultman to act out and engage in self-destructive behaviour.
“He’s a young man,” Strophy said. “He has a lot to learn still in life.”
Konner House’s parents and sister described a kind young man who loved to pull pranks on family members. He was a budding mechanic, always saving money to buy new truck parts, said his father, Kevin House.
He had earned his commercial driver’s license less than a week before the crash, Kristine House said. He was the youngest person in his class.
Kristine and Kevin House said they hope Hultman will use the experience to make the world a better place, and to encourage other young drivers to be responsible.
The House family is already embracing that mission.
Seniors at Capital High School are now eligible for the Konner House Memorial Scholarship, awarded annually to someone who embodies Konner’s kind and friendly spirit. House’s parents said the scholarship may be awarded to students seeking any kind of continuing education — whether it be technical school or university. One of Konner’s favorite teachers helps guide the selection process.
The scholarship is largely funded by donations made in Konner House’s name after his death.
Contributions can still be made through the Washington State Employees Credit Union.
The family also worked with the city of Tumwater to create a sign honoring Konner House that asks people to drive safely. The sign will likely be put up this summer.