Man gets 2 years, 4 months for hitting, killing bicyclist in Prosser

Kristin M. Kraemer, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 9, 2014 

Kelley Carr will never forget the last words she spoke to her husband -- "I love you. Be safe, but have fun."

Jared Carr was on a 400 km, or 2481/2-mile, organized training ride. He only had 30 miles to go and was excited to finish.

But after the five other bicyclists made it safely to the Richland meeting spot with no sign of her husband, Carr knew something was wrong.

She called area emergency rooms, then got the devastating news that Jared had been killed by a drunk driver east of Prosser.

On Thursday, Carr stood feet away from that driver, David Lee Rivera Godinez, and said there will be no justice with his guilty plea.

"I have lost the man who I wanted to raise kids with and grow old with. I wish that I had died that night too," she told the court. "Jared had more right to be on the road that night than Mr. Godinez. ... I have been handed a life sentence without my husband."

Godinez, now 21, of Prosser, pleaded guilty in Benton County Superior Court to one count of vehicular homicide while under the influence of intoxicating liquor.

The courtroom was packed on both sides with about 60 people for the almost hour-long hearing.

Godinez was sentenced to two years and four months in state prison. Two years is mandatory and will be served without any credit for good time, because he has a prior DUI-related conviction.

He could have faced up to 4-1/2 years to 5-1/2 years in prison. Prosecutor Andy Miller explained that if the case had gone to trial, there may have been some issues because the 31-year-old Carr was riding after midnight on Old Inland Empire Highway in an area that was dark with a narrow shoulder.

However, family pointed out that Carr was safety conscious and wearing ample reflective gear, and court documents said Godinez's blood-alcohol level was above the legal limit two hours after the May 27, 2012, wreck.

"There's no doubt in the state's mind that Mr. Godinez is guilty, and Mr. Carr did nothing wrong that night," Miller said. He emphasized that evidence shows the Walla Walla man was safely off the roadway while changing a flat tire on his bike.

"I have dealt with too many families who have suffered such a loss, but I've never worked with a family with such strength and compassion as Jared's family," he said.

It was key to the Carr family that Godinez admit the highest level of vehicular homicide and that he had been drinking, and the amount of time he got behind bars was less important, Miller said.

Godinez was 19 when his 2007 Honda Accord hit the stopped bicyclist, then a power pole. He left the scene and called his parents, then returned with them as Prosser police and Benton County sheriff's deputies were investigating.

Godinez admitted having four 12-ounce bottles of beer at a friend's house before getting behind the wheel, but denied that his ability to drive was affected.

He claimed he swerved to avoid what he believed was a skunk in the road, lost control of the car, hit gravel and ran into the pole, court documents said. He said he didn't see any cyclists on the road that night.

Godinez registered 0.097 when he took a portable breath test at the scene, and toxicology tests from a blood draw two hours later showed his level was 0.092, documents said. The legal limit in Washington for adults is 0.08 percent.

Investigators determined that Godinez was traveling 75 mph in the 50 mph zone and did not use his brakes before hitting Carr. They also found that Carr would have been visible to approaching cars given the amount of reflective gear and lights on his person and the bike.

Godinez stood next to defense lawyer Mia Mendoza and faced Judge Vic VanderSchoor on Thursday while giving his apologies to the Carr family.

"I never intended for this to happen. I made a bad decision. I am dealing with the consequences of my actions," he said in between tears. "I'm working hard every day to better myself, and I promise that this will never happen again."

Godinez was arrested in July 2011 for first-degree negligent driving, and sentenced three months later.

Carr's loved ones questioned how Godinez didn't learn from his prior mistake and want the message to get across to his peers in hopes of saving another life.

Kelley Carr said she still wakes up in the middle of the night, straining to hear her partner and figuring out where he's at in his early morning routine, only to realize he's not there. The couple would have celebrated their 8-year wedding anniversary less than a month after his death.

"I'm still in love with him, but now it hurts because I can no longer share my life with him," said Carr, who last saw Jared at the Prosser Truck Stop before the final leg of his ride. "I am now faced with building my own stories that are a bit less whole because he is no longer a part of them."

Sara Humbert said her younger brother and only sibling was her confidant, mentor and best friend. In a letter to the court, she said she was sickened to learn that authorities found Jared Carr's body first because Godinez had fled from the crash site, and couldn't believe that people later blamed her brother for being out on the road that night.

Humbert said her brother taught her to love cycling and she was just starting to spread that joy to her son, but she has not ridden a bike since the day before Carr's death because she's too overcome with pain, anger and loss.

"For the rest of my life, everything will be less than because Jared is not there," Humbert wrote.

Miller also read letters from Carr's parents, Patricia and Gary. They all touched on Carr's love for the outdoors, motorcycles and bicycles, and the time he spent with his family and friends.

Jared Carr worked at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and was responsible for operating the supercomputer.

Patricia and Gary Carr said their son regularly discussed the importance of being safe and prepared while on the road, and even showed his latest gear to his parents the weekend before his death so they'd understand he wanted to be as visible as possible at night.

Patricia Carr said she comes from a family of faith, but questions where God was the night her son was killed or where the guardian angels were that she always taught her children were watching over them.

"I do know that God loves Jared even more than I. Once again we have to entrust our son back to God," she wrote. "Mr. Godinez will have a second chance to build another life. ... It is my prayer that he will choose wisely and use his life well."

At the end of the hearing, VanderSchoor looked out into the courtroom gallery and said: "I wish everyone who has any part in this case, God speed. And I hope that the future will soon make this better for everyone."

-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; kkraemer@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @KristinMKraemer

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