Drunken driver sentenced in crash that injured toddler

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

Published:

Updated: March 22, 2012, 8:43 PM

 

Cody De Luca didn’t mince words when she told a judge just how close her 3-year-old son came to death last summer.

“He was being held in the angels’ hands that day is the only reason we still have him,” De Luca said. “We came within inches of losing our son.”

A drunken driver who plowed his car through the De Luca family’s home, seriously injuring toddler Joshua, pleaded guilty Thursday to vehicular assault and hit and run.

Clark County Superior Court Judge Robert Lewis sentenced Vancouver driver Rajneel Singh — who has a prior DUI conviction — to one year in prison, but warned what would happen if Singh doesn’t change his behavior.

“The only remedy after this is to put you away for as long as possible,” Lewis said.

Singh, who had a suspended license and no insurance, was driving the evening of Aug. 28 when he sideswiped a vehicle on Interstate 205 and kept going, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Kasey Vu said. Singh continued driving at a high rate of speed in an effort to flee from the driver he hit, Vu said.

The motorist followed Singh’s car as Singh exited the freeway in Salmon Creek. That’s when Singh, 27, crashed into the De Luca house after trying to make a turn onto Northeast 20th Avenue and losing control of his Scion Hatchback.

Singh fled the scene and was apprehended a few blocks away by sheriff’s deputies. Vu said the deputies found 12 bottles of alcohol in Singh’s car; a blood draw later showed his blood-alcohol level was .21, more than twice the legal driving limit.

When she addressed the judge, Cody De Luca said her son is still recovering from the crash, mentally and emotionally. Joshua was playing in the garage and was hit by flying debris and suffered a serious head injury that required several stitches.

He’s “still a happy guy. Not so bubbly” anymore, De Luca said.

The mother said she wanted the driver to receive treatment and learn from his mistakes, so he wouldn’t injure any more people.

The judge agreed. In addition to the one-year prison sentence imposed, Singh received another one-year suspended sentence hanging over his head if he violates terms of his community custody. The sentence includes alcohol treatment.

The sentencing range for the most serious offense, vehicular assault, is 12 to 14 months. Lewis said he was tempted to give him the maximum term because “this was an aggravated event.”

However, the judge went with the punishment recommended by the prosecution and Singh’s attorney, George Marlton, so Singh can “begin to pay back victims (for damages to the house) and engage in treatment.”

Laura McVicker: www.twitter.com/col_courts;www.facebook.com/reportermcvicker;laura.mcvicker@columbian.com; 360-735-4516.