Portland man pleads guilty to vehicular homicide of friend

Ham sentenced to 30 months in prison for role in crash near Battle Ground




An Oregon man was sentenced Thursday to 2 1/2 years in prison for causing a crash that killed his friend last spring near Battle Ground.

Serengaw Ham, 28, of Portland pleaded guilty earlier Thursday to vehicular homicide in connection with the April 24 crash that killed 18-year-old Arnoux Benjamin of Portland.

While prosecutors said there was clear evidence he was intoxicated — his blood-alcohol level was .12 and he also tested positive for marijuana — Ham accepted a plea bargain to a lesser charge of vehicular homicide.

He pleaded guilty to the reckless-driving vehicular homicide, not DUI vehicular homicide, which carries a stiffer sentencing range.

Clark County Superior Court Judge Barbara Johnson sentenced Ham to the midpoint of the standard sentencing range of 26 to 34 months, said Senior Deputy Prosecutor Kasey Vu. The sentencing range takes into account Ham’s previous DUI in Oregon.

Upon release from prison, Ham’s driver’s license will be suspended for one year, Vu said.

Died virtually instantly

Sheriff’s deputies responded to the crash in the 20700 block of Northeast Risto Road about 11:20 p.m. They found a 1997 Ford Crown Victoria had hit a tree on the south side of the road.

Benjamin “died virtually instantly by blunt force trauma,” Vu said.

A sheriff’s deputy found an opened 12-pack box of Budweiser beer behind the driver’s seat, according to court documents. A drug recognition expert later evaluated Ham at the hospital, where he was being treated, and concluded he was under the influence of substances, and a blood test showed his blood-alcohol level to be above the legal limit of .08.

It was never clear why the Portland men, described by prosecutors as close family friends, were in rural northern Clark County.

Ham was mum at Thursday’s hearing and family members were not present.

“He didn’t say anything,” Vu said.

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