Man pleads guilty to hit-and-run in death of friend

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

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A Vancouver man who crashed his Cadillac, then had his wife pick him up from the scene where his passenger lay mortally wounded, pleaded guilty Friday to felony hit-and-run.

Jason B. Graham, 37, entered guilty pleas to hit-and-run death and felony bail-jumping. The crash occurred Oct. 16, 2010, when Graham was driving on Northeast Cedar Creek Road in north Clark County. His Cadillac hit a tree, seriously injuring his front-seat passenger, Harold Sloan Blanchard of Amboy. Graham left the scene after calling his wife.

Blanchard, 27, died about a week later from his injuries.

Graham will be sentenced June 15. Deputy Prosecutor Jeannie Bryant said Graham faces a sentence of either 4½ years or 10 years in prison, depending on a dispute over his number of prior convictions.

As part of a plea bargain, prosecutors dropped a vehicular homicide charge against him, Bryant said. The bail-jumping charge relates to Graham missing a court hearing last year.

Defense attorney Gregg Schile said he plans to request that Graham participate in the Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative program, which combines treatment with the sentence. Graham told the judge he struggles with methamphetamine addiction and alcoholism.

Just before the crash that evening, a Clark County sheriff’s deputy saw the driver of a Cadillac tailgating another vehicle and then make a reckless pass at a high rate of speed, according to court documents. Moments later, the deputy was dispatched to the single-vehicle crash in which the passenger was trapped in the car. When he arrived, Graham was nowhere in sight.

Bryant said Friday that Graham telephoned his wife, Sarah D. Graham, to pick him up from the scene. Deputies later found Graham at the hospital and arrested him.

Graham’s wife is charged with felony hit and run as an accomplice. She has a trial set for July 23.

During Friday’s hearing, Graham wept.

“Mr. Graham has been emotional throughout this hearing,” Clark County Superior Court Judge Diane Woolard noted.

“Was he your friend?” she asked.

“Yes,” Graham said.

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