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Drunk driver sentenced to eight and a half years for killing Decatur seniors | 'Our family can never regain what we’ve lost'
The driver that killed two teenagers three days before their graduation from Decatur High School last spring will be spending the next eight and a half years in prison.
Kirkland resident Alexander E. Peder was sentenced to 102 months Friday afternoon by King County Superior Court Judge James Cayce for two counts of vehicular homicide while driving under the influence after killing Decatur seniors Derek King, 18, and Nicholas Hodgins, 18, on June 9, 2010. The driver of the car, Anthony Beaver, also a Decatur senior at the time, survived.
“These three young men were supposed to be launching into adulthood,” said King County Deputy Prosecutor Amy Freedheim during the sentencing hearing. “This was their last day of high school, but only one would survive the day.”
Freedheim, along with Peder and his attorney, John Wolfe, recommended to Cayce for the maximum sentence possible under law, which was the 102 months Peder received. Peder, 51, was emotional during the two-hour sentencing hearing that was attended by more than 100 family and friends of the victims.
He wiped away tears on several occasions during the eight emotional speeches as well as DVD tributes from family members of King, Hodgins and Beaver.
“I accept full and complete responsibility for my reckless actions,” Peder read from a piece of paper Friday. “Today, I’m here to face their families and friends. I’m sincerely sorry for the pain and suffering I have caused them. I selfishly chose to drink and drive that evening. I wish I could turn back the hands of time.”
Peder’s sentencing included a pair of two-year enhancements for two prior DUI-related convictions. He was convicted of first-degree negligent driving in 1998, and of reckless endangerment in 2008, after pleading down both alchohol-related incidents.
“They would be alive if he was punished correctly the first or second time,” said Mary Bobbitt, the mother of Nick Hodgins. “Robbing a house that’s empty will get you more time in jail. I think that we have a long way to go in the state to change things.”
“Please help us change these laws that we will not tolerate drunk driving any more,” said King’s father, Randall. “Who would have thought that one year ago, I would be standing here. Our son Derek had his entire life in front of him.”
After entering a plea of not guilty immediately following the crash, Peder flipped and pleaded guilty on the two counts of vehicular homicide in February.
King, Hodgins and Beaver were driving south on Interstate 5, coming home after a celebration for their high school graduation in Bellevue with several other Decatur seniors.
“Our boys were doing everything right that night,” Bobbitt said. “They were great kids spending time with their friends and so looking forward to graduation. They went out together that night to have fun.”
Some of the most impassioned testimony during the sentencing hearing came from Anthony Beaver and his family. Beaver vividly described what happened the night his two best friends were killed after his Honda broke down on Interstate 5.
“It was the last day of our high school careers,” Beaver said. “It was a time to celebrate. Why didn’t I die? Why couldn’t my friends make it out and the drunk doesn’t? My life is a mess.”
“Today, he is angry,” said Beaver’s step-mother, Lisa. “Angry at the loss of his two best friends. He’s confused as to why he remained alive, while the others died. In some ways it was a blessing, but now it’s his cross to bear.”
Peder, who was also injured in the crash, was taken to Harborview Medical Center, released a few hours later, then arrested and taken to King County Jail.
According to the trooper’s report, Peder had bloodshot and watery eyes, slurred speech and “spoke with a thick tongue.” There was alcohol on his breath when he spoke.
In light of this, before being taken to the hospital, troopers had medics draw blood to test blood-alcohol levels. Toxicology reports showed Peder’s blood alcohol level to be .16 percent. According to the charging papers, there was also a small amount of marijuana and a pipe in his Ford Explorer.
This was not Peder’s first DUI. In 1998, the charge was amended to negligent driving and his sentence was deferred after Peder showed proof of completing a DUI victims panel and getting an alcohol evaluation. In 2008, he was arrested for a DUI; this time the charge was amended to reckless endangerment, and Peder was given a two-year suspended sentence. He is still on suspension for that last DUI offense.
“I spent my time looking out for him,” said Brandi Gleason, Hodgins’ older sister. “This is one thing I couldn’t protect him from. There is a day when (Peder) can rebuild his life. Our family can never regain what we’ve lost. We are stuck with this for the rest of our lives.”