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Driver pleads guilty in fatal Federal Way crash: 'I understand what I did'

Several items were left at a roadside memorial for 21-year-old Emmanuel Franco of Federal Way. Franco died Dec. 29 after his vehicle was struck by a vehicle driven by Lagrant Darnell Pegram, 35, of Auburn. Alcohol was a factor in the incident. - Jacinda Howard/The Mirror
Several items were left at a roadside memorial for 21-year-old Emmanuel Franco of Federal Way. Franco died Dec. 29 after his vehicle was struck by a vehicle driven by Lagrant Darnell Pegram, 35, of Auburn. Alcohol was a factor in the incident.
— image credit: Jacinda Howard/The Mirror

Lagrant D. Pegram, 35, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to a charge of vehicular homicide originating from the Dec. 29 incident that killed Emmanuel Franco of Federal Way.

Pegram faces a standard sentence ranging from 135 to 164 months, said King County Superior Court Judge LeRoy McCullough. The maximum sentence is life in prison and a $50,000 fine, he said.

Pegram, of Auburn, originally pleaded not guilty to the charge on Jan. 3. Pegram, who was traveling northbound on Pacific Highway South around 2:20 a.m. Dec. 29, is accused of running a red light at South 320th Street and striking Franco’s vehicle, which was traveling westbound on South 320th Street. Franco, 21, died at the scene.

Pegram’s blood alcohol level registered at .242 shortly following the incident, according to court records. Upon his arrest, Pegram gave an account of the incident that did not match evidence found at the crime scene, according to court records. He told police Franco turned in front of him, causing the fatal incident. There were inaccuracies in Pegram’s account of the incident due to his intoxication, said Lee Russo, Pegram’s attorney.

Following Pegram’s Wednesday court appearance at the Maleng Regional Justice Center, Russo said that the decision to change the plea was not a difficult one.

“It was a relatively easy decision,” Russo said. “The evidence in this case was overwhelming.”

The collision was caught on camera. The Pacific Highway South/South 320th Street intersection is monitored by both red light photo enforcement devices and Safe City cameras. Video of the incident was submitted to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Makisha Pegram, Lagrant Pegram’s wife, said Thursday that her husband’s decision to plead guilty to the crime had nothing to do with the evidence. He entered his plea because it was the right thing to do, Makisha Pegram said.

“My husband did not enter into a guilty plea because the evidence was overwhelming,” she said. “My husband entered into a guilty plea because he has now devoted his life to Christ and he wants to take full responsibility for his actions.”

A representative with the prosecuting attorney’s office said the office plans to recommend a sentence of 147 months. It will also recommend Pegram be made to restrain from contact with the Franco family, pay restitution for the incident, pay emergency response fees of approximately $100,000, potentially participate in 18 months of supervision upon his release, participate in alcohol treatment counseling or courses, attend a DUI victim’s panel, have an ignition interlock device and wear a bracelet meant to monitor, for one year, alcohol intake. The judge does not have to follow the recommendation upon sentencing Pegram.

“My husband understands fully he’s not coming home,” Makisha Pegram said. “He has to pay his debt to society. That’s not something he’s forced to do; that’s something he wants to do.”

The recommended sentence is hefty, in part due to Pegram’s criminal history dating back to 1992. He has seven felony convictions and six misdemeanors, according to Federal Way police. Pegram’s convictions include DUI, possession and/or delivery of drugs, a domestic violence court order and juvenile vehicular assault, also involving alcohol. Most of the cases originated in King County.

Pegram acknowledged before Judge McCullough that he was waiving his right to a trial. He acknowledged he was pleading guilty to drinking, running a red light and causing the death of Franco.

“It’s something I did,” Pegram said when McCullough asked how Pegram came to the conclusion to plead guilty. “I understand what I did.”

Russo said Pegram feels remorse for his actions.

“He’s really distraught over this and he’s praying the family of Emmanuel Franco will forgive him,” Russo said.

Makisha Pegram also said her husband feels remorse for his actions and wishes he could change things.

“We’re not dealing with a heartless bastard,” she said. “He would never ever intentionally hurt anyone and he is really really broken up over this.”

Pegram’s sentencing is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. April 1 in front of Judge LeRoy McCullough at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent. George Franco, Emmanuel Franco’s father, and family are asking the public to pen letters to the judge encouraging a heavy-handed sentence for Pegram. Letters should be addressed to Judge LeRoy McCullough and can be sent directly to the judge at mcccullough.court@kingcounty.gov, or to George Franco, at gyfranco@comcast.net, who will pass on the letters.

 

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