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Kennewick man pleads guilty in hit-and-run case

A Kennewick man admitted Wednesday to hitting a bicyclist last December and driving off, saying he wasn't sure what he'd hit.

Vernon Wayne Reiss, 43, pleaded guilty in Benton County Superior Court to hit-and-run with injury.

Reiss' criminal history shows a conviction in King County for vehicular homicide in 1990, according to court documents.

Prosecutors agreed to give him an exceptional sentence below the standard range of six months in jail because Reiss is under a doctor's care for multiple sclerosis, which he has suffered from for a number of years.

"His condition requires that he take a number of medications, and a transfer to another custodial facility would likely interrupt his prescription regimen," Deputy Prosecutor Megan Whitmire wrote in a document signed by Judge Robert Swisher. "The preceding has been discussed with the victim of this crime and he has no objection to this alternative sentence."

The victim, Jonathan Dewberry, was riding his bicycle west on 27th Avenue in Kennewick when he was hit by a white Chevrolet Caprice at 6 a.m. Dec. 5.

Dewberry, now 30, was thrown from his bicycle. He suffered scrapes, bruises and a possible broken leg, court documents said.

A side mirror from a vehicle was found at the crash site, and Kennewick officers found a car matching the description a short time later driving out of the Walmart parking lot. The car, driven by Reiss, reportedly had a broken side mirror.

Reiss, in his interview with police, "admitted to hitting something and not stopping but claimed he could not see what he had hit," documents said.

In his plea statement, he wrote, "I was in an accident. I knock(ed) a bicyclist down. I left without seeing if he was OK."

Dewberry was treated at Kennewick General Hospital.

Richland man pleads guilty to sexual assault

A 33-year-old man is asking for treatment instead of a lengthy prison stay after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting a grade-school girl.

Steven Wayne Wilkins of Richland admitted to one count of first-degree rape of a child. A second similar count will be dismissed at sentencing, tentatively set for Nov. 17.

Wilkins faces between seven years and nine months to 10 years and three months in prison. However, his attorney, Shawn Sant, plans to petition for a Special Sex Offender Sentencing Alternative for his client.

The sentencing alternative usually carries a jail sentence of up to a year and at least three years of treatment.

Prosecutors said in the plea statement that if Wilkins receives a favorable recommendation for the program, they would suggest he do 12 months with the balance of the sentence suspended consistent with a SSOSA sentencing.

Court documents state that Wilkins raped the young girl and forced her to inappropriately touch him on several occasions between September 2008 and March 2009.

Since he pleaded guilty to a sex crime, Wilkins now is being held in the Benton County jail without bail pending his sentencing.

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

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