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Drugs a factor in crash that injured casino developer

He has been a major player in effort to build in La Center

Published: April 13, 2010, 12:00am
3 Photos
David Barnett
David Barnett Photo Gallery

Drugs factored into a November traffic accident that seriously injured the Seattle-area developer who has been a driving force behind an effort to build a casino in Clark County, according to an investigation by the King County Sheriff’s Office.

David Barnett, 49, was thrown from the bed of his Toyota Tundra pickup during the Nov. 16 accident and found unconscious in the middle of a street; his live-in girlfriend, Sarah S. Rutyne, 36, was arrested on suspicion of vehicular assault but has not been charged.

On Monday, The Columbian received reports from the King County Sheriff’s Office in response to a public records request.

According to the reports, the 6 a.m. accident occurred in suburban Shoreline after Barnett jumped in the bed of the truck to stop Rutyne from leaving his $1.3 million home on Puget Sound. Rutyne kept driving, and Barnett was trying to break through the truck’s back window when the truck left a road and crashed into a rock wall.

Barnett was ejected and Rutyne fled. Emergency responders transported Barnett to Harborview Medical Center and tracked down Rutyne. According to a report by Deputy Mark Souza, Rutyne told firefighters that she had been using crack cocaine and methamphetamine with her boyfriend and that she had also used Hydrocodone, Oxycodone and Percocet. She voluntarily gave a blood sample and rambled about her relationship with Barnett, Souza wrote.

“She said she met her boyfriend at rehab and they began dating about one year ago. She relapsed in May and began using crack with her boyfriend,” Souza wrote.

Rutyne told officers that she and Barnett had used drugs, according to a report.

Toxicology results were “positive” for both Barnett and Rutyne, according to documents, but the sheriff’s office redacted the specific substances.

Deputy James Leach wrote that he spoke with Barnett, who sustained traumatic brain injuries, on Dec. 1 while Barnett was hospitalized. Barnett said he did not remember anything about the incident and told Leach that he’s a recovering alcoholic who had been sober for several years but had relapsed, according to Leach’s report.

Barnett could not be reached Monday. He’s the son of longtime Cowlitz Indian Tribe chairman John Barnett, who died in 2008.

Rutyne also could not be reached, and it’s unclear whether she and Barnett are still in a relationship.

King County Deputy Prosecutor Amy Freedheim said Monday she expects to decide in the next few weeks whether to charge Rutyne with vehicular assault, and said a five-month delay is not uncommon in deciding whether to file such cases.

Phil Harju, spokesman for the Cowlitz tribe, said Monday that he had not seen the police reports and could not comment on the incident, except to say that he’s grateful that Barnett’s recovering from his injuries.

The casino project near La Center remains in limbo, with the tribe awaiting a decision from the Department of the Interior on whether the land west of Interstate 5 will be placed into trust for the tribe. Meanwhile, the Connecticut-based Mohegan Tribe, the Cowlitz project’s main financier, is $1.6 billion in debt, according to federal records.

Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or