After pleading guilty on July 9 to second-degree murder, Shellie Rose Collins, 42, was sentenced to 21 years, eight months in prison by Judge Bruce Weiss in Snohomish County Superior Court on Thursday.
Collins, in handcuffs and escorted by two Snohomish County law enforcement officers, remained mostly silent during her courtroom appearance, crying briefly after the sentence was handed down. When asked by the judge if she had anything to say, Collins whispered, “I just want to take responsibility for it all.”
Collins was at the wheel of a van that led Lynnwood police on a two-mile high-speed chase on May 24 that ended when she ran a red light at 212th Street Southwest and 44th Avenue West in Mountlake Terrace. The van she was driving struck another van driven by Lynnwood resident Jerry Bennett, 72, who later died from injuries sustained in the collision.
While Snohomish County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Tobin Darrow recommended a sentence of 18 years, nine months for Collins, Judge Weiss opted to hand down a sentence much closer to the maximum (22 years, 11 months) allowed by law.
“This is not the first time you’ve been at the control of a vehicle when you’ve hurt someone, and in this case killed someone,” Weiss told Collins during the sentencing hearing. “I can’t agree with this mid-range recommendation, it is not sufficient to protect the public.”
Collins was convicted in Clark County in 2004 for vehicular assault.
Weiss referred to the recent incident that took Bennett’s life “a senseless act,” and called Collins’ criminal record “abysmal,” noting four other felony convictions and numerous misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor charges in her past.
Weiss didn’t let a nearly empty courtroom sway his feelings that a harsher sentence for Collins was appropriate. “The fact that there is no family (of Bennett) here is not significant to me. It is my responsibility to, one, protect the public, and two, send a message to you,” he said to Collins.
Prosecuting attorney Darrow said in court that Bennett had “no kin or family.”
The May 24 police chase started when officers attempted to contact Collins and a male passenger in the van near Highway 99 and 200th Street Southwest in Lynnwood. Collins, who is believed to have been under the influence of cocaine at the time, sped off north, turned east on 196th Street Southwest, then south on 44th Avenue West. Police cruiser dash cam video shows that the van Collins was driving cut through parking lots, ran a number of red lights, and had “two to four” near misses with other vehicles during the chase, Darrow said.
Lynnwood police estimate the van was traveling close to 75 miles per hour when it ran the red light at 212th Street Southwest while south on 44th Avenue West. The impact of the collision pushed the van Bennett was driving off the roadway, up onto the sidewalk and into a pole.
“You’re fortunate Mr. Bennett was the only one killed in this incident,” Weiss told Collins in court. “You’re fortunate you didn’t lose your life.”
– Story and photo by Doug Petrowski