Battle Ground woman, 25, pleads guilty to vehicular homicide

Judge sets hearing on whether she can take baby to prison with her

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian Health Reporter

Published:

 

The Battle Ground woman behind the wheel in a fatal car crash in May 2009 pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide Monday morning.

Shastina M. Lapping, 25, admitted in Clark County Superior Court to driving while intoxicated and crashing the vehicle — an accident that later killed her friend, 25-year-old Emily Buck, also of Battle Ground.

Judge Roger Bennett sentenced Lapping to 31 months in prison and 18 months’ post-prison supervision. Lapping will also lose her driver’s license for one year and must complete alcohol education courses, among other stipulations. The sentence was recommended by Deputy Prosecutor Jim David as part of a plea deal. The standard sentencing range for vehicular homicide, a Class A felony, is 31 to 41 months.

Defense attorney Clark Fridley asked the judge to consider amending the sentence. Lapping gave birth to a son in March. Fridley said a woman who gives birth during the course of court proceedings can take her child with her to prison if the sentence is for 30 months or less.

Bennett asked Lapping if she knew she was pregnant when she was drinking alcohol on the night of the crash. Lapping said she was unsure of her conception date, but if she was pregnant at the time, she didn’t know it.

Bennett said he will consider amending the sentence but will not reduce the length. If allowed, Bennett may alter Lapping’s sentence so she spends 30 days in the local jail and 30 months in prison. Lapping will surrender and Bennett will finalize the sentencing Friday afternoon. Lapping has been on supervised release since the crash.

The single-vehicle crash occurred at about 1 a.m. May 9, 2009.

Lapping, Buck and their friends had been celebrating Buck’s birthday at the Prairie Bar & Grill in Brush Prairie. In three hours, Lapping consumed four drinks, Fridley said. An hour and a half after the crash, Lapping had a blood-alcohol content of 0.13 percent, David said. In Washington, the legal limit is 0.08 percent.

Some of the women’s friends celebrating at the tavern that night asked Lapping not to drive and tried to keep Buck from getting in the car, David said.

Lapping was driving about 78 mph in a 50 mph zone in the 17500 block of Northeast 142nd Avenue. When Lapping approached a curve, she failed to stay on the road. The Buick she was driving flipped and struck a tree, David said. Fridley said the vehicle also slid on gravel in the road.

Buck suffered blunt-force injuries and died in a hospital July 3, 2009.

Lapping originally pleaded not guilty to the charge on Jan. 6. During the change-of-plea hearing Monday, Lapping apologized to Buck’s family.

“I never meant to hurt Emily. She was a wonderful person,” Lapping said. She then turned to Buck’s family and began sobbing. “I can’t imagine what you’ve gone through. Having a son has made me understand what it means to be a mother.”

Half a dozen of Buck’s friends and family members also spoke.

Buck’s widower, Wes Buck, told the judge the family was ready for the court proceedings to end but wants justice served.

He then turned to Lapping.

“You get to live. My wife dies. You’re going to have to live with it the rest of your life,” he said. “I explain to my kids all the time why mommy’s gone.”

Buck left behind a son, Connor, now 4, and daughter Caitlyn, now 2. Wes Buck’s voice quivered as he told Lapping his son asks him, “When’s mommy going to get back from heaven?”

Buck’s mother, Debbie Donaldson, said the grief of losing her daughter is still unbearable.

“Mothers are not supposed to outlive their daughters. Mothers are not supposed to visit their daughters in a coma as they deteriorate before your eyes,” Donaldson said. “Shastina has stolen my daughter from me.”

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546 or marissa.harshman@columbian.com.

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