A Lacey family is mourning the death of a 16-year-old boy described as a jokester and gentle giant who sang along with the radio and loved computers.
Austin Blankenship was killed early Tuesday morning while asleep in his bedroom when a man crashed a sport utility vehicle into a residence in the 4500 block of Ruddell Road in Lacey.
Authorities wanted to question Bobby Glenn Hicks, 27, who they suspect was driving the SUV, according to a Lacey police officer. They have questioned the passenger.
KIRO-7 reported late Tuesday night that Hicks had been captured in the Nisqually area and booked into the Thurston County jail in Olympia.
Hicks has ties to the Nisqually Reservation and is known to frequent the Puyallup Reservation or surrounding areas, Lt. Jim Mack said.
He could face vehicular-homicide charges, Mack added.
Police received a call about the crash about 12:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Two witnesses said they saw an SUV speeding east on 45th Avenue and across Ruddell Road before slamming into the home, Lt. Phil Comstock said.
Witnesses said they saw two men get out of the vehicle and flee northbound on Ruddell Road. The witnesses followed the two men but said the men hid near Mullen and Ruddell roads.
Thurston County sheriff’s officers and Olympia police also responded, and two police dog searches were conducted, but the suspects were not found.
By the time medics had arrived, Blankenship was dead.
Blankenship’s mother, stepfather and aunt gathered at the home Tuesday while a claims adjuster looked over the damage.
By late morning, a blue tarp covered the hole that the SUV had punched through the home. Pink insulation and yard furniture littered the scene. A small teddy bear sat on a fence nearby.
Blankenship’s parents, stepfather, Terry, and mother, Kim Benscoter, were home during the crash and, because of the damage, had to escape from a window in their bedroom, said Stephaine Vankomen, Blankenship’s aunt, who lives in the area.
“It was a wonder they didn’t get killed, too,” Vankomen said.
While the parents declined to be interviewed, Vankomen, Kim Benscoter’s sister, shared stories of a nephew with a heart of gold.
She spoke of a boy who was interested in computers and art design. With his 6-foot, 300-pound frame, Blankenship was once a football player.
“He was a big, lovable bear,” she said. “He was a jokester. He just cracked jokes everywhere.”
Blankenship had been a student at Timberline High School but transferred to an online school in September 2009, according to a spokesperson for North Thurston Public Schools.
The family moved to the area in 2004 from West Virginia and lived with Vankomen briefly before settling down in the house where they now live.
Blankenship had two older siblings, a brother and a sister, neither of whom lives in the home, family members said.
His aunt also recalled a conversation she had with Blankenship about dying.
“Austin would say, whenever he dies, he didn’t want a funeral; he didn’t want people to cry,” she said.
“He wanted all his family and friends around and throw a pizza party and laugh and remember him, but not cry.”
An autopsy is scheduled for Thursday, according to the Thurston County Coroner’s Office.
Nate Hulings: 360-754-5476 firstname.lastname@example.org