Ridgefield man gets 8.5 years for fatal crash

He was drunk, high when he hit power pole; 2 passengers died

By Emily Gillespie, Columbian breaking news reporter

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A Ridgefield man will serve eight and a half years in prison for causing a crash that killed two people last fall near downtown Vancouver.

Ian J. Cole, 21, was sentenced Tuesday to serve 102 months in prison. Last week, Cole pleaded guilty to two counts of vehicular homicide and one count each of vehicular assault and hit-and-run death. As part of the agreement, Cole received the maximum sentence for each charge, prosecuting attorney Kasey Vu said.

Cole was under the influence of alcohol and marijuana the night of Nov. 17 when he got behind the wheel of his 2003 Ford Mustang and took three other passengers on a drive up and down Southeast Columbia Way, Vu said.

Witnesses said he was driving between 60 and 70 mph and did 360-degree turns (doughnuts), Vu said. The speed limit there is 30 mph. At about 8:45 p.m., Cole lost control and crashed the Mustang into a power pole, shearing the pole and causing an outage.

Jesse E. Orellano-Leister, 20, died at the scene. Cole's best friend, 25-year-old Benjamin Folk, was seriously injured and died a day later at the hospital. A third passenger, Maxwell Borders, 19, suffered injuries but survived.

Immediately following the crash, Cole fled the crash scene on foot and called Folk's girlfriend, Katie Locken, and asked her to pick him up.

At the sentencing hearing, a victim advocate read a letter on behalf of Locken. The letter stated that she had lost her best friend and her child had lost his father. She added that the worst part of that night is knowing how selfish Cole had been by leaving Folk behind.

"You have taken away one of the most kind and caring men … The punishment will never be enough to bring my Ben back," the letter said.

Janet Leister, Orellano-Leister's mother, spoke and said that her son had just begun to turn his life around.

"He was making something of his life and Mr. Cole has taken that away," she said.

When Cole had his chance to speak, he asked for forgiveness.

"I'm sincerely sorry," he said. "The decisions I made that night were far from being right … I should have never gotten into the vehicle and I should have never driven how I did. I had other people's lives in my hands."

He said that Folk was like a brother to him and that he has deep remorse for his actions.

"Words cannot express how sorry I am," he said. "I know words will never heal. I can only hope the families find the strength they need to heal."

Judge Suzan Clark said that she's used to hearing cases of vehicular homicide where the defendant knows the victim, but said "this is one of the sadder cases I've ever heard."

"Leaving your best friend at the scene … it's just unthinkable that someone would do that," she said.

Clark said that she was limited to the sentencing range for the charges, but said that "looking at the pain and suffering of the families, I wish there was more the court could do."