A Vancouver man was sentenced Friday in Clark County Superior Court to 6½ years in prison in a February 2019 crash that killed a cousin who was riding in his vehicle.
Michael Tataichy, 32, previously pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide while driving under the influence in the death of 18-year-old Manson Juea.
Senior Deputy Prosecutor Jessica Smith recommended the 78-month sentence but said the defense was free to argue for a lower sentence, outside the standard range.
“This is a very tragic case, as many vehicular homicide cases are,” Smith said, adding that the prosecution weighed Tataichy’s high intoxication level with the death of a family member.
Testing of a blood sample, taken more than four hours after the crash, found Tataichy had a blood-alcohol level of 0.17, Smith said. In Washington, a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 is considered evidence of drunken driving.
Camas police officers and firefighters were dispatched at 12:13 a.m. Feb. 6, 2019, to the 900 block of Northeast Third Avenue for a report of a serious traffic crash.
Smith said Tataichy was driving a blue Pontiac G6, with Juea in the back seat, over 90 mph in a 25 mph zone. He failed to negotiate a curve and crashed the car into a tree, and the car flipped onto its top. Juea died on impact, she said, and Tataichy suffered a concussion and facial fractures. He was taken to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver for treatment; Smith said he left the hospital the same day against the advice of medical staff.
A witness, who was later interviewed, told police the car “exploded” when it struck the tree, causing it to go airborne and spin “like a top” before coming to a stop on its roof, according to the probable cause affidavit. The vehicle caught fire, and the witness put out the flames with a fire extinguisher.
Smith said investigators found empty Budweiser beer cans and an empty beer box in the car.
When police followed up with Tataichy later that month, he said he picked up Juea from an apartment, and the two went to his house to split a 12-pack of beer, according to the affidavit. They left for another house in the area of Southeast 192nd Avenue and Mill Plain Boulevard, he told police, and ended up in the Camas-Washougal area. Tataichy said he could not remember anything else.
Among her arguments for a sentence below the standard range, defense attorney Michele Michalek said Tataichy lacks significant criminal history and driving offenses. She said Juea’s family did not want Tataichy to serve more time. The attorney became emotional as she described Tataichy as a “simple man” with “simple feelings,” who made a poor choice and wishes he could take it back.
Through a Chuukese interpreter, Tataichy expressed gratitude to God and said the crash was unintentional.
Judge Suzan Clark declined to hand down a sentence below the standard range, saying the high speed and high level of intoxication in the case justified a midrange sentence; however, she agreed to the low end of 78 months because the victim’s family wanted a reduced sentence.
“My hope is that you take advantage of all of the programming available in prison to improve your job skills and get some alcohol treatment,” Clark told Tataichy. “I truly believe you are not a bad person but that you drank a massive amount of alcohol. And unfortunately, the outcome of that was to lose someone it appears who you viewed as a brother to you.”