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Dec. 6, 2022

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Vancouver man gets 7-plus years in fatal hit-run crash

Hazel Dell collision killed 52-year-old man from Vancouver

By , Columbian staff writer

A Vancouver man was sentenced Wednesday to 7¼ years in prison for a January fatal hit-and-run crash in Hazel Dell.

Joseph A. Rachauskas, 48, pleaded guilty in Clark County Superior Court to vehicular homicide, possession of a stolen motor vehicle and hit-and-run resulting in death. He also pleaded guilty in five other identity theft and mail theft cases and is scheduled to be extradited to Oregon for warrants there. The sentences in the other cases are set to run concurrent with the vehicular homicide sentence.

Rachauskas apologized Wednesday to the numerous victims in the cases for the emotional, physical and financial hardships he caused them.

Judge Derek Vanderwood recognized that Rachauskas expressed remorse and was struggling with drug addiction when he committed the crimes.

“But that doesn’t undo the impact on the lives of others, particularly the life that was taken,” Vanderwood said.

Before ordering the 87-month term, Vanderwood said any sentence would be insufficient because it wouldn’t resolve the damage done.

Emergency responders with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, Clark County Fire District 6 and AMR were dispatched shortly before 1 p.m. Jan. 23 to a two-vehicle serious injury hit-and-run crash at Northeast 88th Street and Highway 99.

Deputies determined a 2005 Ford F-250 pickup was traveling south on Highway 99 when it went through a red light at 88th Street and struck an eastbound 2013 Mercedes sedan. The pickup was reported stolen out of Washington County, Ore., the Clark County Sheriff’s Office said.

The driver of the Mercedes, identified as William Stevens, 52, of Vancouver, was extricated from the car and taken to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver, where he died from his injuries. The driver of the pickup, later identified by police as Rachauskas, ran from the scene; a search for the man was unsuccessful.

Fingerprints from the steering wheel of the pickup returned as a match for Rachauskas, according to a probable cause affidavit. Investigators also noted a strong odor of marijuana coming from the truck.

His phone also showed he was in the area of the intersection at the time of the crash and that it began downloading files just before the crash. The affidavit states that might indicate Rachauskas was distracted by his phone when he crashed.

Video surveillance showed the man running from the crash and into an apartment complex on 88th Street. Rachauskas’ phone’s location showed it was at the complex for about 50 minutes; during that time, several calls and texts were exchanged with multiple phones, court records state. Investigators also found messages between Rachauskas and a friend who came to pick him up.

Local police agencies located Rachauskas on May 25 in the Fred Meyer parking lot at 7700 N.E. Highway 99 and arrested him.