An Ocean Shores woman charged with vehicular homicide and vehicular assault in an incident that left her fiance dead and a bystander injured was sentenced to three years in prison Friday in Grays Harbor Superior Court.
Rebecca Hebel, 21, pleaded guilty in January to vehicular homicide by reckless means and vehicular assault in a reckless manner. Both charges are strike offenses, meaning Hebel faces a life term if she commits another such offense. She has no prior criminal history.
Judge Mark McCauley sentenced her Friday to the middle of the standard range of 31-46 months, in accordance with her plea agreement.
“At this point, the defendant has a choice to make,” wrote Deputy Prosecutor Gerald Fuller in his sentencing recommendation. “She can either straighten up and put her life in order or continue carrying on in an irresponsible fashion as she did in this matter.”
Hebel was charged in a May 8, 2012, collision that ended in the death of Bryan J. Moorman-Trader, her fiance and the father of her infant daughter.
Lloyd Siverts of Ocean Shores was driving northbound on Canal Drive NE when a car that he says seemed to be racing another vehicle came directly at him in his lane. He said the car swerved and slammed into him before driving away. Hebel was found at her home nearby trying to remove Moorman-Trader from the vehicle. He later died of his injuries.
Her blood alcohol was measured several hours after the crash at .087, above the legal limit. She also tested positive for marijuana.
On Friday, Hebel’s attorney, Matthew McGowan, said she had been 21 for less than a month at the time of the crash, and made the mistake of agreeing to a game of “cat and mouse” with a friend.
According to a drug and alcohol evaluation, Hebel acknowledged using alcohol and marijuana at times prior to her fiance’s death, but said she began to use methamphetamine afterward.
Moorman-Trader’s family made no official statement to the court, but Fuller noted in his conversations with the man’s mother, “her primary concern is the child.”
Kyanna Moorman is in the care of her grandparents, but Fuller explained their desire for Hebel to face justice is tempered by the baby’s need for her mother.
Siverts did make a statement to the court, submitting a letter and speaking Friday. His injuries in the crash aggravated old injuries, and now he is nearly unable to work installing floor covering or building houses, trades he had built around the schedules of his three school-aged sons.
He noted March 8 of this year was the first day he’d managed to avoid taking any pain medication, although he’s needed it since, and that what work he’s able to do is painful and slow.
He said his family’s bills are piling up.
Siverts said his doctors have told him, “I have reached a plateau in my recovery, I am not getting any better.”
In addition to the financial and emotional strain on his household, Siverts said he wouldn’t be able to pass on his trades to his sons.
“I’m not giving up, I’m going to keep working at it and I’m going to get better,” he said.
While he’ll likely suffer from Hebel’s actions the rest of his life in some way, he asked for some leniency for her daughter’s sake.
“On the other hand, I understand family,” Siverts said. “We all make mistakes, and it’s not her daughter’s fault for what happened. … I think it would be very bad if her daughter were denied access to her for a decade based on an obviously foolish choice, but young people are notorious for foolish choices.”
“We would ask the court to give Ms. Hebel every ounce of mercy possible,” McGowan said, both reflecting her lack of criminal history and her young daughter.
“No one can punish Ms. Hebel any more than circumstances, she’s already punished herself,” McGowan said.
He also noted she had suffered a physical assault in her home by “parties aggrieved by Mr. Moorman’s death.”
Hebel’s father spoke through tears, apologizing to the Moorman family.
“I’m sorry for what my daughter created,” he said.
When Hebel finally spoke, her voice was barely audible, soon breaking into sobs.
“I lost the love of my life that day,” she said. “My actions have affected everyone in this room.”
“I just want to apologize once again, because I know I did something wrong. I want to move past this, I know I’m not a bad person,” Hebel concluded.
McCauley said he would be inclined toward the bottom of the sentencing range but for Hebel’s methamphetamine use.
“It’s very concerning to me she resorted to drug use,” he said. “That’s not only a very serious offense, but it’s a difficult addiction to kick.”
“It’s one of those situations where any of us who have been 21 … could say, ‘There but for the grace of God go I,’ ” he added.
Still, McCauley said, driving drunk is a choice that can have dire consequences. He agreed to Fuller’s recommendation with the condition Hebel undergo drug treatment in prison, to be verified by the court upon her release.
“If you’re going to go back to using methamphetamine, you’re not going to be raising your child as far as I’m concerned,” he warned.