Former Edmonds resident and City of Edmonds employee Dawn Vrentas pleaded guilty as charged in King County Superior Court on Tuesday to felony DUI. She had originally pleaded not guilty last August when she was initially charged.
According to the King County prosecutor, Vrentas faces a standard sentencing range of 22 to 29 months in prison. In light of the plea, prosecutors will recommend the low end of the range, 22 months. Sentencing is tentatively set for May 16, but depending on the court’s schedule could be moved to June 6 or 13.
This was not Vrentas’ first scrape with Washington State drunken driving laws. She has a history of impaired driving offenses dating back to a DUI conviction in Spokane County in 2000 when she was in her late teens.
Then in August 2003 it turned tragic.
The 22-year old Vrentas was driving two friends home from a party on Highway 211 near Davis Lake in eastern Washington’s Pend Orielle County. According to court documents, she was driving at speeds in excess of 75 miles per hour when she lost control on a curve. The car skidded off the road and landed in the water. She escaped, but her two passengers, Kyle Hutchinson, 20, and Walter Corman, 21, died in the crash. Vrentas’ blood alcohol level was 0.16. The legal limit in Washington is 0.08.
She was released on bail while awaiting trial, but according to Pend Orielle County Prosecutor records was rearrested for violating the conditions of her release by drinking at a party. In June 2004, she was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison, which she served at the Washington Women’s Correctional Center at Gig Harbor. She was released in 2007.
The current charges stem from a traffic stop last July 27 in the early hours of Saturday morning on Interstate 5 near 145th Street. Vrentas was returning to her Edmonds residence from the Capitol Hill block party when she was pulled over by a Washington State Patrol trooper for speeding.
She denied any alcohol consumption at the scene. The trooper noticed a “strong odor” of alcohol and administered a breathalyzer test, which indicated a blood alcohol level of 0.14. She was taken into custody and her car was towed to a Northgate-area tow yard.
On July 31, 2013 she was formally charged with one count of felony DUI. Previous convictions for vehicular homicide while under the influence of intoxicating drugs and two more recent speeding convictions (March 9, 2012 and April 14, 2013) were cited as factors in determining this charge.
The charging documents characterized her as a “grave danger to the community, who cannot refrain from driving while impaired or speed(ing),” and that despite the fact that two people have been killed due to her decision to drive while under the influence, “she continues to drive impaired.”
She was released on $750,000 bond and on the condition that she “not use or possess alcohol or non-prescribed drugs, not entering any business where alcohol is the primary commodity available for sale, participate in 24/7 alcohol monitoring, and not drive any motor vehicle.”
Prior to this incident, Vrentas had been employed by the City of Edmonds Parks Department at Yost Pool.
— Story and photo by Larry Vogel