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Tuesday, March 5, 2024
March 5, 2024

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Vancouver woman with history of drunk driving gets 4 years for fatal hit-and-run

Transient man was struck, killed on Minnehaha Street

By , Columbian Breaking News Reporter

A Clark County Superior Court judge handed down a longer sentence Friday than what was recommended by the prosecution in a fatal hit-and-run case, ordering a 35-year-old Vancouver woman to serve about four years in prison.

Judge John Fairgrieve said Jessica Lyn Bankhead showed genuine remorse and had accepted responsibility for her crime, but he was obligated to impose a “mid-range” sentence of 50 months.

The prosecution had asked for a prison term of 46 months.

Bankhead pleaded guilty during Friday’s hearing to a single charge, admitting she failed to remain at or return to the scene and help 44-year-old Richard Waller.

She struck and killed the Vancouver resident on Feb. 25 and sped away, prosecutors said.

“I’m very, truthfully sorry for your loss. If I could trade places with him I would, but that wasn’t in God’s plan,” Bankhead said through muffled cries.

Clark County sheriff’s deputies and firefighters responded around 11:30 p.m. Feb. 25 to the 2300 block of Northeast Minnehaha Street for a report of a motorcycle crash. When they arrived, they found Waller — described as living as a transient — dead in the eastbound lanes and a tipped-over shopping cart nearby, according to the sheriff’s office.

Bankhead was driving eastbound when she hit Waller, killing him instantly, Deputy Prosecutor James Smith said.

Defense attorney Jacy Thayer said Bankhead was driving home on a dark winter night passing through a heavily wooded section of Minnehaha Street. Waller was wearing dark clothing and walking in the middle of the road, pushing the shopping cart; Bankhead was unaware she’d struck a person, Thayer said.

“She looked back and didn’t see anything,” Thayer said.

The next morning, Bankhead’s roommate asked if she was involved in the crash, which by that time had made the local news. Bankhead immediately contacted an attorney, who arranged her surrender to law enforcement, Thayer said.

A prosecutor previously said in court that witnesses reported seeing Bankhead drinking at taverns before the crash. However, Smith told the court that investigators were unable to establish Bankhead’s level of intoxication.

Still, Bankhead’s history of drinking was a primary focus at the sentencing hearing. She was convicted of driving under the influence in 2004, 2006 and 2011, as well as an ignition interlock violation in 2016.

Drinking alcohol has been a significant and recurring problem for Bankhead, said Smith.

Bankhead posted a $40,000 bond and was released for a short time following her initial arrest in the case, but she was taken back into custody in late March for twice violating the court’s order to not drink. She was ordered to undergo substance abuse treatment as part of the sentence.

Waller’s sister, Lisa Bradley, told the judge she wanted justice for her brother.

“I wish she’d stopped and helped him, or just stayed with him,” she said.

Columbian Breaking News Reporter