A woman was sentenced Tuesday to two years in prison for driving drunk and fatally striking a pedestrian.
Ileta Simonov, 24, pleaded guilty in Clark County Superior Court to vehicular homicide and driving under the influence of intoxicants. Judge Gregory Gonzales issued the sentence based on a recommended plea deal between the prosecution and defense.
Elvis Keplinger, 48, died in November when he was struck in the roadway by a vehicle driven by Simonov. Keplinger’s family approved of the plea deal, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Kasey Vu said.
“This is a sad case, your honor, but the victim’s family is very forgiving and gracious,” Vu said during Tuesday’s hearing.
The crash occurred about 10:45 p.m. Nov. 21 in the 13100 block of Northeast 28th Street. Witnesses said a man was jumping in and out of traffic when he was struck by a vehicle driving west, according to an affidavit of probable cause.
Keplinger suffered severe head trauma, brain bleeding, a broken right leg and fractured vertebrae, the affidavit says. He was taken to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, where he died the next day.
A patrol officer responded to the scene, where first responders were treating Keplinger, who was lying in the road. Simonov, whose vehicle had front-end damage and a broken windshield, told police she didn’t notice the man in time, according to the affidavit.
Simonov told police she drank a lemon drop cocktail about 1 1/2 hours before the crash. The patrol officer said he could smell alcohol on Simonov’s breath, and her eyes were red and watery. She had also been crying, the affidavit says.
Simonov agreed to take a field sobriety test, which found she was intoxicated, in addition to a preliminary breath test, according to the affidavit. Her blood-alcohol level was 0.142 less than a half-hour after the crash. In Washington, a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or more is considered evidence of drunken driving.
Simonov was convicted of DUI in 2014, minor in possession in 2015, and she was driving with a suspended license due to an unpaid ticket, Vu said.
Keplinger’s mother, Connie Lopez, and sister, Brenda Bacon, offered statements at Tuesday’s hearing. They said that, after a struggle with alcohol addiction, Keplinger had recently found a steady job and a vehicle prior to his death.
“God was there that night you and Elvis crossed paths,” Bacon said while reading a prepared statement, “and I think God is with me as I pen this.”
Lopez said Keplinger “left us at a good point.” She echoed the theme of forgiveness and faith.
“I just want to pray for everyone involved,” Lopez said before looking at Simonov and smiling. “God gives us the strength to learn, and there’s a lot to learn.”
As Simonov began to say she wanted to address Keplinger’s family, Gonzales instructed her to turn toward them.
“I’m so sorry, and I’m so thankful for the grace you guys have shown,” Simonov said.
Gonzales said he was leaning toward a more severe sentence before hearing from Keplinger’s family. He also said Simonov needs to quit drinking forever.
“If you don’t make something of your life, it would be a disappointment,” he said.