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Driver faces 5 to 7 years in crash that killed two Decatur students

Flowers and messages were placed at Decatur High School’s billboard along South 320th Street for three students involved in a fatal crash. Two of the students died. - Kyra Low/The Mirror
Flowers and messages were placed at Decatur High School’s billboard along South 320th Street for three students involved in a fatal crash. Two of the students died.
— image credit: Kyra Low/The Mirror

The man accused of driving drunk and killing two Decatur High School seniors just days before their graduation was charged Monday with two counts of vehicular homicide.

Bail has been set at $1 million for 50-year-old Alexander Peder of Kirkland, who remains in custody as of press time.

Prosecutors are still looking into filing additional charges, including vehicular assault, said Ian Goodhew, a spokesman for the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Decatur seniors Derek King, 18, Nicholas Hodgins, 18, and Anthony Beaver, 19, were driving south on I-5, coming home June 9 after a celebration for their high school graduation, which was to take place June 12.

Just south of State Route 518, Beaver’s 1986 Honda Civic became disabled in the second lane. Beaver activated his emergency flashers and called 911. While the call was being transfered to Washington State Patrol, the call dropped. A minute later, 911 began receiving calls regarding a collision.

Peder had struck the back of the Civic with his 1998 Ford Explorer, pushing it forward, rotating it 180 degrees. The back of the car was almost completely obliterated. King, who was in the right rear passenger seat, was declared dead at the scene. Hodgins, who was sitting in the front passenger seat, was transported to Harborview Medical Center, where the next day he was pronounced dead after being taken off life support. Beaver suffered lacerations to the back of his head and side of his face, and had multiple stitches.

Two previous DUIs

Peder, who was also injured in the crash, was taken to Harborview, released a few hours later, then arrested and taken to King County Jail.

A Washington State Trooper found a half full (a fifth) bottle of Pearl vodka in the Explorer. A receipt showed the alcohol had been purchased six hours before at 4:30 p.m. The receipt also showed the purchase of two smaller bottles of tequila.

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 filed Monday, there was also a small amount of marijuana and a pipe in the 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.

Due to Peder’s past record, prosecutors are looking into seeking “additional sentencing enhancements based upon his past behavior,” Goodhew said.

Goodhew said the standard sentence, if Peder is convicted on all counts, would be 5 to 7 years.

Arraignment is scheduled for 9 a.m. June 24.

In addition to his $1 million bail, Peder can have no contact with Anthony Beaver or the families of Derek King and Nicholas Hodgins and cannot have any alcohol. He must wear a SCRAM device, which detects alcohol in the system. He cannot enter a liquor store. He cannot drive without a valid license, insurance and an ignition interlock device set at .02.

Aftermath

The boys were remembered at the Decatur graduation ceremony on Saturday at the Tacoma Dome. It began with a moment of silence. Hodgins’ sister sat in his seat, accepting his diploma. Beaver, the survivor of the crash, was also there, collecting King’s diploma for him.

A memorial fund is being set up at Columbia Bank, Decatur teacher Ron Rodmore said. Individuals wishing to contribute can do so at any Columbia Bank in the name of Nick Hodgins or Derek King.

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