Driver in fatal racing crash gets 14-month sentence



Posted on June 23, 2014 at 5:41 PM

Updated Monday, Jun 23 at 5:41 PM

PORT ORCHARD, Wash. -- It was a plea deal that was supposed to help both sides heal. A 20-year-old Port Orchard man who had been charged with vehicular homicide for killing his girlfriend and her friend pleaded guilty to a lesser charge. But the girls' families pulled their support for the young man after they learned he may have committed a new crime.

"This is an extremely tragic case," Kitsap county prosecutor Claire Bradley told the court. "I'm quite certain that Mr. Rundquist didn't wake up that morning and decide he wanted to kill his girlfriend and her best friend."

In December, Robert Rundquist had been racing his girlfriend Rebeka Barrett in another car, when she lost control, killing herself and her best friend Shanaia Bennett.

"I would do life in prison if that would bring them back," said the defendant. "It would be much easier. Much easier."

Initially, the 20 year old faced vehicular homicide charges, but in an act of compassion, the two girls' families had talked prosecutors into reducing the charges to felony hit and run.

"We all offered what we believed our children would have wanted," said Theresa Bennett, Shanaia's mother.

But just a week before sentencing, Rundquist got in trouble again for under aged drinking at a casino. The betrayal, on top of the families' loss, was almost unbearable.

"I can’t put into the words the rage that is in my heart right now," said Dewey Bennett, Shanaia's father.

"He has basically, in my opinion, and the pain of my children left without their sister, has spit in the grave of Rebekah," Theresa Bennett told the court.

The defendant's father explained Rundquist has struggled with addiction.

"I know Robert made another mistake and everyone is very upset. And it is upsetting," said Robert Rundquist Sr.

"Everybody is trying very hard to help you," Judge Leila Mills told Rundquist, “but no one can help you if you don’t help yourself."

Mills decided on a 14-month sentence, instead of the 12 months agreed to in the plea deal. The prosecutor says if Rundquist is convicted of minor in possession, they will ask for one year to be tacked onto the sentence he received Monday.