Bail reduced for Lynnwood man accused of vehicular homicide in death of Washington State trooper

Trooper Christopher Gadd

Bail has been reduced for the Lynnwood man accused of vehicular homicide in death of Washington State trooper, although the suspect remains in Snohomish County Jail as of Friday.

Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Richard Okrent earlier this month ordered bail reduced from $1 million to $100,000 in the March 2 killing of Washington State trooper Chris Gadd by an alleged drunken driver (see our earlier story here).

According to documents filed with the court, the suspect — 32-year-old Raul Benitez Santana — was traveling in the southbound lanes of Interstate 5 just prior to 3 a.m. March 2 when his vehicle swerved onto the shoulder and struck a parked Washington State Patrol SUV. Trooper Christopher Gadd, 27, the sole occupant of the vehicle, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Benitez Santana remained at the scene and was arrested by Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office deputies on suspicion of vehicular homicide. He was transported to Providence Hospital where he was read his Miranda rights. He admitted to smoking marijuana and drinking beer during the evening prior to the crash.

At the suspect’s March 4 court appearance in Snohomish County District Court, Court Commissioner Jennifer Millett ruled that probable cause exists for vehicular homicide and set bail at $1 million. Benitez Santana has been in custody since that date.

According to a report in the Everett Herald, Benitez Santana’s attorneys asked Superior Court Judge Richard Okrent to release him from custody.  They argued that while he is an undocumented Mexican immigrant, Benitez-Santana has lived in Washington for many years, has no prior felony convictions, works as a mechanic, and has three children and numerous relatives in the local area with whom he maintains close relationships – and therefore is not a flight risk or likely to commit other crimes.

On May 15, Judge Okrent reduced his bail to $100,000. This was despite arguments from Gadd’s family that he should remain in custody and bail should not be reduced, and despite concerns that should Benitez Santana post bond and be released pending trial, once free he would be subject to possible arrest and deportation by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).

As of Friday, May 31, no bail has been posted and Benitez Santana remains in jail.

— By Larry Vogel

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